“Are you a scientist? You look like a scientist!” a fifth grader asked Bill Ayer. What he didn’t realize is that he was talking to the CEO of Alaska Airlines. Alaska Airlines, known for its emphasis on community involvement, has a CEO who truly leads by example. Last year, Ayer was honored at Ripples of Hope, City Year Seattle’s annual fundraising dinner, for his longstanding commitment to the Seattle community.
On Tuesday, Ayer demonstrated his commitment and Alaska Airlines’ values once again as he visited a City Year elementary school to witness the Whole School, Whole Child team in action. He arrived first thing in the morning to meet with corps members to observe City Year’s before-school Homework Club and then sat down with the corps members for a roundtable discussion about City Year Seattle’s service. Corps members Malia Makowski and Robert Melick shared their stories about the personal and individual impact corps members have upon students and just how important those interactions are.
Malia’s experience was about a student named James*, who struggled in school almost solely because of his lack of confidence. She coached him through his homework, taught him the importance of doing well in school, and most importantly, built his confidence in his abilities. As she spoke, she passed around James’ homework folder. She had made it a point to hold on to his homework for him every day, preventing “accidental” losses so that he could feel accomplished and proud after actually completing each assignment.
“Through working with James consistently this year, James’ scores have absolutely improved but what means more to me is that his confidence has as well,” Malia said. “He actually wants to show me what he has done and reminds me if I forget to hold on to it for him – I think he is actually grateful for that.”
Mr. Ayer spoke about the impact that these individual relationships have upon students and how change is made “One James at a time.” In the afternoon, he took his time to walk around and sit down to talk to some of the students. Abel*, a first grader, said, “He was really friendly. He was like a talk show host!”
Alaska Airlines’ support for City Year and the visit from their CEO reaffirms the message of their commitment to their community. They support a range of non-profits as diverse as the Nature Conservancy to City Year, helping the Pacific Northwest remain the vibrant place it is now. From all of us at City Year Seattle: thank you!
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the students we work with.
Photos by Adam Nance
Text by Robert Melick, City Year Seattle/King County corps member