Putting the FOCUS on Kalamazoo

Photo credit / Allie Creamer FOCUS members Tinashe Chaponda, Ari Solomon, Chris Miller, Jazmine Ray, Brian Bartley and others get together for a team chant after the Bronson 5k Walk/Run on September 29th.
Photo credit / Allie Creamer
FOCUS members Tinashe Chaponda, Ari Solomon, Chris Miller, Jazmin Ray, Brian Bartley and others get together for a team chant after the Bronson 5k Walk/Run on September 29th.

Recently Loy Norrix alumnus Tinashe Chaponda founded a mentoring program called FOCUSKalamazoo, aiming to better the Kalamazoo community through uniting high school and college students, promoting local businesses, adding to students’ real world experience and personal growth and continuous success through generations of the program. The mentoring/volunteering part of FOCUSKalamazoo deals with pairing up current Kalamazoo Promise recipients in college with KPS freshmen and sophomores in high school to help them with difficulties faced during high school. Chaponda decided to start FOCUSKalamazoo when reconsidering the choices he made during high school.

Although Chaponda ended with a 3.4 GPA he said, “I know I could have done better if I focused more on academics” rather than perhaps going to more social events.

One of the most beneficial aspects of FOCUSKalamazoo is the idea to mentor high school students, although it still needs approval by the super attendant. If approved, mentors can provide guidance on basic school questions, college preparation and help students grow as individuals through motivation. Mentors would be key in helping students because they have already gone through the difficulties faced in high school.

Although FOCUSKalamazoo was simply an idea less than two months ago, it has already made tremendous strides. It is in a partnership with Spirit of Kalamazoo and Project He1p, supported by Youth United Way and Kalamazoo Promise Foundation and is working to collaborate with Habitat for Humanity and Volunteer Kalamazoo.

Chaponda is already working on starting branches in East Lansing and Grand Rapids, and Spring Arbor is already an official FOCUSKalamazoo branch with 39 members and an event in three weeks.

Long-term goals include developing FOCUS throughout the country. These developments are heighted by social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Other key people in the program are Norrix alumni Ari Solomon and Tinashe Kubvoruno. Solomon was responsible for developing the idea of FOCUS being a mentoring program rather than tutoring. Kubvoruno helps with recruiting mentors and general guidance for the organization. He also designed the logo for FOCUSKalamazoo.

Chaponda is also working on having a group of high school students, juniors and seniors, dedicated to promoting the organization to surrounding high schools to create more awareness for the organization.

The first event was the Bronson 5k Walk/Run on September 29th. Volunteers were encouraged to come cheer on passing participants. At the event there were about fifteen volunteers, but after posting about it on Facebook, members of the volunteer group rose to over 200. The next upcoming event FOCUSKalamazoo is taking part in is the Holiday parade in Kalamazoo on November 9th.

Every other Sunday the organization has an informational session at the Bernhard center for the public to learn about it. Anyone can volunteer as long as they are a freshman in high school or older. To keep informed about the program visit https://www.facebook.com/FOCUSKalamazoo, https://www.facebook.com/groups/FOCUSKalamazooVolunteers/ or @FOCUSKalamazoo on Twitter.

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