Denny Student Blog: Alan

DIMS Blog

At Denny International Middle School (DIMS), we pride ourselves on the promotion and advancement of a “culture of literacy.” Around every corner and classroom, you will find contest flyers, inspirational quotes, event announcements, and bits of learning all concerning literacy. The teachers and administration all think of literacy as less of a standard to be taught, but more of a cause to be furthered. We want our students to love reading, even find it to be infectious, and write well.

Last year, a City Year corps member named Sam Boutelle was one of many individuals who worked tirelessly alongside teachers and staff to help spread this literary fervor. Sam, however, soon discovered there was a problem. He noticed that for the most part, students had responded well to the impassioned exaltation of literacy, particularly in writing: producing poems, essays, stories, and book reviews. All of which were deserving of a little extra praise and recognition than a Level 3 or Level 4 grading could bring. But none came. Instead, they would be passed back to the student and soon thereafter become forever lost in the paper-stuffed abyss that is a middle schooler’s backpack. I never had the pleasure of meeting or working with Sam myself, but I imagine his response was, “That’s simply not good enough.”

Sam took to the internet to find a solution, and the “DIMS Authors and Scholars Blog” was born. Run by the City Year ELA coordinators and supported by teachers and staff, the blog is an online platform for highlighting the vibrant community of talented creative writers and artists at Denny. It is referred to as a single blog, but in actuality it is three separate webpages, each dedicated to a grade level. All three are filled with everything from expository essays to pencil sketchings, and a wide variety of poems in all shapes, sizes, and styles. All together, the blog boasts a combined 81 postings and has garnered over 2,000 views in just two years. You can check out the blog posts here:

6th Grade Blog
7th Grade Blog
8th Grade Blog

Admittedly, this might all seem like little more than a shameless plug in an attempt to amass a larger viewing audience, but what I think we can all learn from Sam and the DIMS Blog is no solution to a problem is ever outside the reach of innovation. If it bothers you, address it. If it doesn’t exist, create it. And if it is met with indifference, assess the situation with a clear mind, a level head, and the courage to either stay the course or move on. As for me, I will continue to make sure that students have the opportunity to share their creativity, their struggles, their triumphs, their questions, and the workings of their inner selves with the world. Why? Because writings like this one, submitted to the blog by an 8th grader, should never go unseen:

As a young girl,
I was surrounded by hate,
Parents fighting until divorce,
It left me alone,
My family broken,
Now a teenager,
Everyone’s caring and happy,
I have a step-father,
I’m no longer alone,
My family is a fixed mirror,
Though you can still see the cracks,
It’s because I’m a Denny Dolphin
and I finally belong.

Go Dolphins.

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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

They Make the School Year Go by So Fast!

Corps member working with a student.

The 2010 – 2011 school year was the first year that City Year Seattle/King County implemented Diplomas Now, an innovative school-turnaround model designed to work in partnership with some of our nation’s most under-resourced schools.  We are currently in two middle schools: Aki Kurose Middle School and Denny International Middle School.

One of the students at Aki Kurose MIddle School was assigned to do a free write during class. In her assignment, she highlighted City Year and more specifically, her City Year corps member, Megan. This segment is a heartwarming depiction of the impact of the work we do, and the connections and bonds we establish every day.


I like City Year this year. Megan is COOL!  I like Megan, because she helps us A LOT. She always tries her best to help us. I think that’s very COOL! Also, she is very funny. She likes to joke around and it makes talking about school fun! I think she’s a GREAT friend and I’m really happy that I have 6 periods with her. Sometimes I bother her too much and I’m scared she might get annoyed and leave. I hope she doesn’t leave.

In 5th grade, I was also friends with a City Year named McCall. She was cool, too! She convinced me to draw for a civil rights contest. I actually joined just for fun, but I won third place. I drew Jackie Robinson. I wish there will always be cool City Years in my classes. Even though High School! They make the school year go by so fast.

Our second year of Diplomas Now will commence in just a few short weeks and we can’t wait to continue to make an impact in the lives of Seattle students.

City Year is Kind of My Best Friend


This year, an After-School Heroes student at Aki Kurose Middle School began singing “I wanna be a City Year,” to the tune of Travis McCoy’s “Billionaire.” Inspired, students and City Year corps members worked together to create a music video with students singing and their corps members rapping. One of those students was Lindsay.

Lindsay, a seventh grade student at Aki Kurose Middle School and avid participant of the After-School Heroes program, was assigned to write an essay for her English class. She chose to write about the City Year corps members at her school and the impact they have made at her school and upon her life:

Many people don’t know about City Year but I do. They are helpful and just fun to hang out with. When you are down or just need to talk, walk over to a City Year and the next thing you know you will be laughing hysterically! They also help you in your education. They can help you read to reach to your next level, they can help you in math if you’re stuck, and basically they can help you in all kinds of subjects! These are the reasons why I think City Year is helpful and fun to hang out with.

City Year can be so funny. I mean FUNNY! They can make your day so much better. Like this one time I was going to an Aki Heroes [a City Year after-school club] service project at New Horizon Ministries on a very bright like a banana skin day. And I had a really tough week. At New Horizons, a very nice man greeted us and showed us around. After three minutes of the tour he got us straight to work.

“Okay you guys are going to be sorting out clothes that maybe some teens would like to wear!” the man said, and then showed us where to get the clothes.

Mr. Sean, a City Year, saw a very bright pink shirt and of course tried it on. He began modeling and everything. I laughed so much; I think he made that week a whole lot better!

City Year can also be helpful because they help you in school. Ms. Desiree is a great helper. Do you need help in math? Ms. Desiree will be there. Do you need help in reading? Ms. Desiree will be there. There was this really hard question I didn’t know. I raised my hand and the next thing you know Ms. Desiree pulled out a chair so quickly and sat right next to me. She taught me how to do it. I thought to myself as she got up to help another student, “How great!” Right?

City Year is kind of my best friend. They make me laugh when I am sad. They make me believe in myself no matter what. I am proud to know the City Years. City Year is a program that helps schools. At Aki, City Year helps students with their education. So if you ever meet a City Year, my opinion is you better make friends with them. They just might make your year a better year. Maybe that’s why I think that City Year is helpful and fun to hang out with.

Text by Lindsay, a seventh grade student at Aki Kurose Middle School

*Lindsay’s name was changed to protect her identity.

Video by the corps members at Aki Kurose Middle School and the After-School Heroes students

To the City Year Staff: I Hope You Are Here Forever

A letter from a middle school student to his City Year corps members.

City Year corps members start their day in schools before the first bell rings in the morning and end their day after the last student leaves. They are a constant presence in students’ lives, and they form incredible bonds with the students who need it most. Through near-peer mentoring and tutoring, corps members effect real change in students, improving their behavior in class and their attitude towards school. In this Starfish Story, Team Leader Andy Tilton describes the relationship that his team of corps members has formed with one struggling student.

At my City Year Diplomas Now middle school, there are many incredible students. With his earnest desire to do well, his goofy mannerisms, his smile and his energy, middle-schooler Haytham* is a joy to my entire team. But he does have some issues that he is continually trying to address. He has trouble focusing on school work and difficulty controlling his emotions and expressing them in a healthy way. He can be perfectly calm and happy one moment and yelling the next.

The seventh grade Diplomas Now team has been helping him control his anger since the beginning of the school year. We’ve taught him breathing exercises, counseled him on how to manage his anger when he’s in class and given him a lot of positive reinforcement when he successfully calms himself down. While Haytham still struggles with his grades and behavior, he is continually improving, in part through the relationships he has built with the City Year team and the school. The other day, Haytham came up to me and proudly exclaimed that he had finished all of his homework. He said, “Man, I like the new me! I get better grades.” That’s when I realized how far he has come in just seven months.

Recently, he wrote a letter to my team and said, “I hope you are here forever.” Receiving letters like this reminds me that our work in this school is truly making a difference. We’re “making school to be a lot of fun” and helping kids like Haytham grow and learn. Haytham’s letter gives me renewed perspective on the impact of my service. It’s a reminder for why I joined City Year and why I continue to serve every day.

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

Text by Andy Tilton, City Year Seattle/King County Team Leader