Sk8 Club – The Coolest After-School Club

At all of City Year Seattle/King County‘s sites, corps members run after-school programs that teach children important lessons as well as provide them with a safe place to stay.  Because of these programs, corps members are able to spend more time with and form stronger bonds with struggling students. At one of our three middle schools, corps members Prescott Cheong and Brian Cain run the very popular Sk8 Club.

As City Year corps members in the skating scene, we started an after-school club, Sk8 Club, that allows kids to practice skateboarding as well as teaches them about the importance of safely and positively advocating for skateboarding.

Throughout the fall, our young skaters learned about the in’s and out’s of skateboarding, the basic techniques, Seattle’s skateboarding history, how skateparks are made and we explored hard-hitting questions like why skateboarding has such a bad reputation. Throughout our unit, we put a heavy emphasis on being role models to younger skateboarders, teaching them to be good and safe skaters and we shaped the program to encourage kids to be articulate about why they love skateboarding.

On our last day of Sk8 Club, we took a field trip to Sea Sk8 Skatepark in The Seattle Center. The middle-schoolers were excited to be on a mini-trip and cracked hilarious jokes the whole way. When we got to Sea Sk8, they burst out of the van like a stampede of wild animals. Even though we’ll never admit it to our students, the van ride was definitely one of the highlights; their excitement made us feel like we were giddy kids, too.

The time at the skate park panned out like a crazy day in the making – definitely filled with ups and downs, but totally worthwhile and fun. One feisty eight grader, Luke*, didn’t want to put his helmet on because he thought it would damage his “reputation.” So we had to talk with him about safety, the importance of using a helmet and being a good role model. Luckily, he was a good sport about it.

There were some minor spills but the kids got right back up and skated on. Two of our sixth grade kids who had just started skateboarding, Brady* and Nathan*, faced their fears and rode down a slope. Several other kids rode around and got to experience the feel of a true skatepark for the first time. All in all, the trip was a huge success and it was a nice way to end this unit of Sk8 Club.

The Sk8 Club kids are already clamoring for the next session of Sk8 Club but unfortunately for all of us, Seattle’s cold and rainy weather makes it difficult to go outside, let alone skateboard. Until the sun comes out again, Sk8 Club will be on hiatus but we are hoping for a comeback when the weather decides to be a little kinder.

As for us, Sk8 Club really enhanced our experience as City Year corp members because we had the opportunity to lead our own after-school club. The experience was invaluable and creating our own curriculum and coordinating field trips has taught us the importance of organizational skills and planning ahead. But being able to hang out and skateboard with our students was what we enjoyed most about Sk8 Club. It was a blast to play and joke around. You would be surprised how funny middle-schoolers are or how easily you can be swept up in their little comedy routines yourself.

We see the same students in the classroom and out, and it is just as rewarding to us when we help them get an “A” in math as it is when we help them land a new trick on the skateboard. Taking initiative and organizing an after-school program like this has really helped us diversify our time with City Year, and we are confident to say that we are ready for more to come.

*Names have been changed

Text by Prescott Cheong and Brian Cain, City Year Seattle/King County corps members at the Casey Family Programs Team at Asa Mercer Middle School

Around the World with City Year

Creating Continents with City Year

In Seattle, Starfish Corps is a City Year led after-school program at Dearborn Park Elementary, Roxhill Elementary and Wing Luke Elementary. Starfish promotes big citizenship and teaches lessons around concepts such as community service, promoting peace and healthy living. City Year Seattle also holds two overnight retreats each year for the Starfish Corps to allow students from different areas of Seattle to interact, as well as form even stronger bonds with their City Year mentors and tutors.

For an entire month, third grade student Alina* asked my team at Roxhill Elementary every day, several times a day, when the next Starfish retreat would take place.

On Friday, March 25th, Alina’s wait finally came to an end. Approximately 60 elementary school students from three City Year Seattle schools arrived at 7:00 p.m. to attend the “Around the World” Starfish retreat. After a snack provided by PCC Natural Markets in Admiral Way, the students created passports complete with name, date of birth, school, and a picture ID taken via instant film. These passports were their tickets to traveling the world with their City Year mentors.

Kids Learn from City Year

The next day, students were sleepy after a night spent in the school cafeteria and gym but they soon perked up after breakfast. Before the students could depart for their world travels, they received pilot wing pins, a gift from Alaska Airlines, and designed their own imaginary continents. Then City Year corps members took students for a trip around the world as they taught students how to salsa dance in South America, throw boomerangs in Australia, compete in soccer competitions in South Africa, play Bump It in China, and Pass the Parcel in England.

City Year and Tat's Delicatessen

Enjoying sandwiches from Tat's Delicatessen!

Tat’s Delicatessen, which has supported several City Year retreats, provided our young and hungry travelers with turkey, roast beef, ham and vegetarian sandwiches while Giannoni’s Pizza provided the adult volunteers with pizza. An impromptu dance party marked the conclusion of the retreat, and students ran around saying good-bye to new friends before leaving.

On Monday, I asked Alina what she thought of the retreat. Her eyes widened and she said, “It was awesome! We got to play games! The food was so good and we had recess! I like how we did the crafts and stuff and I liked how we made the passports and I liked the movie. And I liked meeting the other kids and playing around with my friends and meeting and playing with the other City Years!”

The only problem is . . . now she’s started asking about the next Starfish Retreat.

Text by Will Smith, City Year Seattle/King County corps member at the JPMorgan Chase Whole School, Whole Child Team at Roxhill Elementary School

A Look at Denny Middle School’s Dolphin University

City Year Seattle at Denny Middle School with their Boxes of Infinite Inquiry!

The City Year Seattle corps members serving at Denny International Middle School have revamped their after-school programing, called Dolphin University after Denny’s school mascot, to add to the academic potential of the students. Corps members worked hard for many weeks to create a program that focuses on both tutoring and incorporating lessons that will enrich and supplement the education of their students.

Because the school and district science fairs are coming up, corps members thought it would be the perfect time to run a three-week-long unit on Science. In the first week, corps members re-introduced the scientific concepts of observation and inference. One of the lessons of the week was “Cube Your Enthusiasm.”  Dolphin Universtiy Activity

During the lesson, students spent ten minutes relearning the definitions of inference and observation and shared some examples. One team’s example was:

“We observe that clock on the wall has two hands moving, and we infer that there is a motor inside making it tell the time.”

Once the examples from each group were shared, a corps member transitioned to the second part of the activity: “The Boxes of Infinite Inquiry!”

The corps members worked hard to make the boxes as enticing as possible. As soon as the students walked into Dolphin University that day, the first thing they noticed were two boxes covered with a cloth and signs all around it saying “Don’t open” or “STAY AWAY.” Every time a student went to sharpen a pencil a corps member walked with them to make sure they didn’t sneak a peek at the boxes.

Corps members then unveiled the cubes, which had sets of numbers or equations that were linked to each other by a sequence. Each part of the number sequence was written on a different side of each box. Corps members covered two sides of each box, which gave the students an opportunity to observe the boxes and try to infer what the covered sides displayed. The boxes and the task for finding the missing sides were explained to the teams. Then a corps member announced: “Let the great debate begin!” as the boxes were handed to each team. The teams immediately began trying to deduce what the missing sides were.

The inferences they came up with were very smart and detail oriented. One team wrote:

“We thought we were right because the numbers on the opposite sides of the box always added to eight.”

This team was the ultimate winner because of how broad their various ideas, plans, and inferences were and not just because they were able to get closest to the correct answer. The Corps Members and the students then took the time to applaud everyone’s efforts and participation during the activity.

Finally the groups settled into talk about what the lesson was meant to convey. Teams presented their different strategies for finding the missing sides. As a group, students talked a little bit about human logic and how sometimes people’s past experiences inform their present. One student talked about how she used what she knew about dice to try to infer what the missing sides were.

It was awesome to watch their brains clicking even after a long school day and over an hour of after-school tutoring. Their participation and willingness to engage in the lesson is always a gift. It was a great opportunity with a talented group of students learning to focus and then expand their education alongside their City Year corps members.

Text by Denise Taylor, City Year Seattle/King County corps member of the JPMorgan Chase/NELA Diplomas Now Team at Denny International Middle School

This team was the ultimate winner because of how broad their various ideas, plans, and inferences were and not just because they were able to get closest to the correct answer. The Corps Members and the students then took the time to applaud everyone’s efforts and participation during the activity.

Glimpse into the Future: Dearborn Park Elementary to Aki Kurose Middle School

Corps Member and Dearborn Students

Corps member Desiree Robinette with Aki Kurose Middle School and Dearborn Park Elementary students

The transition between elementary to middle school can be a time that provides a source of anxiety for many students as well as  the unfortunate opportunity to fall off track before high school graduation. Research tells us that as early as the 6th grade, students who exhibit at least one of three off-track indicators – poor attendance, unsatisfactory behavior, course failure in math or English – have less than a 25% chance of graduating from high school.

Knowledgeable about the significance and difficulty of the 5th to 6th grade transition, City Year Seattle corps members organized a visit from Dearborn Park Elementary to Aki Kurose Middle School, both of which are City Year sites. Worried elementary school students were able to catch a glimpse of their future school, get their questions answered, and reassure themselves that even if everything else is new at middle school, their red jacketed mentors will continue to look out for them.

During the field trip, students from Aki Kurose’s After-School Heroes, a City Year-run club, led groups of wide-eyed elementary students on a tour. Elementary students were able to preview their future cafeteria, library, classrooms, and even see examples of middle-school work. They talked to a sixth grade language arts teacher, Mrs. Bradley, and read examples of middle school work. Dearborn Park students asked their older tour guides questions like, “How do you open a locker?” or “What is the hardest thing about middle school?” It didn’t take the elementary students long to realize, “Middle school is huge!”

Returning from her tour, City Year corps member, Sheera Langbaum, beamed with excitement. “This is a really interesting opportunity for our middle school students, too. I love how they are taking pride in their school and their accomplishments.”

As a group activity, both middle school and elementary school students then worked together to define homelessness. They imagined how this plight might feel and constructed a flier asking their community to unite around this important issue and donate extra clothes. Students developed a deeper understanding of an important South Seattle issue and made a few new friends. Team leader Drea Bustamante said, “By the end of the day, everyone was buddies with each other!”

Fifth grader Kent* said, “I was surprised to see how big the students were, but still so nice. I didn’t expect that and now I’m less scared to go to middle school.” Next year, fifth graders will enter middle school prepared with knowledge, a few friendships and the security that City Year corps members will still be there for them.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the students we work with.

Text by Ed Brown, City Year Seattle/King County corps member at Aki Kurose Middle School

City Year: Making Connections Brings Hope

A photo of corps member Rebeca

Corps member Rebeca Juarez works every day in middle school in South Seattle to mentor and tutor struggling students.

During my sophomore year, my high school was almost shut down because of failing test scores. To this day, funding has been cut every year from my former school.

Since then, I have promised myself that I will do what I can to contribute to the cause of educational equity. I pursued my teaching certification in social studies with the hope that one day, I will teach students to explore social justice issues and empower them with the skills necessary to be critical investigators throughout their lives.

I decided to give a year of service through City Year because of its commitment to closing the achievement gap and its emphasis on giving children the skills they need to graduate from high school. I work with fun, crazy, silly and interesting kids all day and help them achieve goals they once thought were unattainable. Some days, my work is confusing and a challenge. Other days, it’s a success and incredibly, unbelievably rewarding.

There is one student who is particularly special to me. Her name is Esperanza* and she is an immigrant from Mexico who has been living in Seattle for the past few years. She demonstrates more knowledge from what she has experienced than any textbook could teach her, and I am constantly amazed by the responsibilities that she, as a thirteen-year-old girl, shoulders every day.

In late December, I noticed that Esperanza was becoming extremely distracted. She would come into class, cry, raise her voice at others, or put her head down the entire period. One day, I asked Esperanza to be excused from class so that she could step outside and take a walk with me. I wanted her to tell me what was really bothering her.

“I feel trapped,” Esperanza cried as she confessed the struggles she was having at home and her school work. Immediately after our conversation, I talked to a staff member of our Diplomas Now partner Communities in Schools, who had been assisting Esperanza outside of class. Since then, I have been in constant communication with the school staff and Esperanza’s parents, entering Esperanza in our after-school program, tutoring her one-on-one in her math and language arts classes, and exploring her goals. It is creating a huge difference in her life.

I talk to her parents at least every other week to update them on upcoming projects. This constant communication and support has helped keep Esperanza focused on staying in school and thinking about what she wants to do after high school. The next step with her is figuring out her post-secondary school plans. During our first meeting, Esperanza and I talked about what she wanted for her future. At first she said that she didn’t want to go to high school because she hated school. I pointed out, “What do you think is possible with only an eighth grade education?”

She put her head down and responded, “Nothing, I guess.”

She loves drawing, music, dancing and cooking, and we have talked about possible careers in those areas. Her face lit up when she talked about being a professional chef. She said, “Ooh, I can cook tameles, enchildadas, mole. Oh, that’s gonna be filthy**.” We both laughed and I promised her that one day, I will come eat at her famous Mexican restaurant. Sometimes, we as corps members just plant the seeds and that’s all it takes for them to start running with their ideas. They just need someone to convince them that their dreams are possible.

I tutor Esperanza one-on-one every day. Recently, I found out that she has moved up from the tenth percentile to the 29th in seventh grade math, which is a increase of almost twenty points in just a few short months. She is excited about the strides she is making and I cannot wait to see her at the end of the year. She is watching doors opening in her future, which wasn’t happening when she was talking about never going back to school.

I know that like me, she will not be another statistic contributing to the achievement gap. And it’s what I work for every day.

Text by Rebeca Juarez, City Year Seattle/King County corps member

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the students we work with

**Filthy: Seattle slang for “cool”.