Seahawks Pride: Jessica

Although the Super Bowl has come and gone, Seattle fans still have a lot of team spirit. Highland Park Elementary showed their support before the game, but the students still have great memories of this historic game.

City Year Timberland boot featuring Seattle skyline at the pep rally.

City Year Timberland boot featuring Seattle skyline at the pep rally.

In the midst of all of Seattle’s Hawk craziness, Highland Park Elementary gathered their students together for an end of the week pep rally. This event consisted of adorable performances by especially spirited students. Our personal Highland Park cheer squad got everyone “FIRED UP” with chants and even an impeccably executed lift. Another student unicycled around the whole gym waving the twelfth man flag – tall and proud.

Students cheer on as the 12th Man Flag goes by.

Students cheer on as the 12th Man Flag goes by.


Staff got in on the fun with “SEA what?! Seahawks” cheer. While we were technically cheering for the Hawks to win, we were really cheering for our kids to win. This pep rally was just another moment to bring our students together, to create a school environment with support and unity.
Corps members Tobias and Nahid stand in front of the Seahawks banner.

Corps members Tobias and Nahid stand in front of the Seahawks banner.


In hindsight it is obvious that the Highland Park pep rally directly influenced the Seahawks winning the 48th Super Bowl (not missing a snap on the first play). But even with the season over Highland Park and its staff will be cheering for their students through the rest of the year.

Highland Park MUSTANGS! NEEEEHHHHYYYYYYYYYY

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Spring Break Academy with City Year!

The Supah Ninjas, City Year Style!

Instead of sleeping in until noon every day or lounging around a Seattle beach, a group of elementary students at Roxhill Elementary School chose to continue their learning with City Year Seattle corps members during their spring break. Corps members, sensitive to the fact that it was spring break, creatively taught math, English and writing, and science through a series of fun games and workshops. Students practiced math with pizza fractions, wrote stories, and participated in science games such as an epic Fantastic Voyage to learn the different organs in the body.

Excited for Pizza Problems
Speaking of epic, every day there was a kickball game at recess. City Year program manager Dawn Jackowski – a woman who is generally all business – even joined in the fun. Students also participated in team building workshops, playing games to strengthen relationships with their corps members.

City Year Corps Member and Student

The games were often set to live piano music, compliments of a certain unusually handsome corps member who just happens to be writing this blog post. For the end of the week, corps members planned a Measurement of Student Progress (or MSP) test prep scavenger hunt, with practice problems that students can expect to see on their MSP standardized test. As a grand finale, corps members planned a party that included cupcakes, cookies, candy and dancing to celebrate their week of learning.

View our slideshow for more photos of an amazing, fun-filled week!

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Text by Will Smith, City Year Seattle/King County corps member at the JPMorgan Chase Whole School, Whole Child Team at Roxhill Elementary School
Photos by Dawn Jackowski, City Year Seattle/King County Program Manager at Roxhill Elementary School and 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

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

Alaska Airlines Visits City Year Seattle!

Alaska Airlines CEO Bill Ayer talking to two City Year Seattle corps members

Team leader Drea Bustamante explaining City Year's Whole School, Whole Child program to Alaska Airlines CEO Bill Ayer.

“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 CEO Bill Ayer speaking with two elementary school students

Bill Ayer speaking with a few students.

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