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

Students make a big impact in Seattle’s Beacon Hill Neighborhood

DJ woke up early in the morning Saturday, October 23rd to find that it was raining outside. The rain wouldn’t have been a big deal – it’s sort of expected in Seattle in October – but DJ had made plans to spend the day outdoors removing invasive species at Cheasty Greenspace in Southeast Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood.

“It’s okay. We’ve served in the rain before – LOTS of times.” She says through a big smile as she hacks through another thorny blackberry tendril from a bush that’s about twice as tall as she is.

DJ has, in fact, served in the rain “lots of times.” As one of City Year’s Young Heroes last year, DJ volunteered more than 130 hours on service projects that included removing invasive species, visiting a retirement community, sorting food at a food bank and visiting the Seattle Mayor’s Office to deliver letters from middle school students detailing their priorities for the city.

The team and volunteers circle before the start of service.

But this Saturday, her project was different. Removing blackberry bushes and scotch broom was the task at hand, but DJ’s personal project was to help recruit a new team of middle school students to pick up where she left off. As a freshman in high school, DJ is trying to set an example for City Year’s new service-learning students from Aki Kurose Middle School and Asa Mercer Middle School.

These “After School Heroes” will serve in dozens of projects at their schools and in their communities. Saturday’s service project at Cheasty was completely planned and executed by City Year’s 2010 Young Heroes alumni as a recruitment tool for City Year’s 2011 After School Heroes.

Removing Invasive Species

DJ and her partners identified a neighborhood located near Aki Kurose and Asa Mercer middle schools because they wanted to make transportation convenient for this year’s middle school students. They chose environmental service because “It’s fun and you don’t need a lot of training to accomplish a lot of work.” They created fliers and posted them at Asa Mercer and at Aki Kurose. DJ also posted fliers at her high school, figuring that her fellow classmates should also have the opportunity to come out to serve.

The day started at 10am with more than thirty shivering volunteers standing in a circle in the rain. After a couple of getting-to-know-you games and a brief safety demonstration, the students were sent west across a field to hack away at acres of 10-feet-tall blackberry and scotch broom bushes. It was a daunting task, but it wasn’t long before they could see the impact they were making.

volunteers get lunch after some hard work

After a couple of hours and a couple of band-aids (blackberry bushes have thorns), the students broke for a spectacular lunch of pizzas donated by Tutta Bella in Columbia City and sandwiches donated by Tat’s Delicatessen in Pioneer Square. By the time the students went back to work, the rain had let up and small sunbeams were shining down on the enormous pile of weeds they had pulled.

Earth Corps helped the students plan and implement the project, and they supplied the tools and vital logistical expertise.

Earth Corps and City Year corps members

City Year sends a huge THANK YOU to DJ and her teammates (especially BJ and Keandrae) who planned this event, and to the Horner Foundation, whose funding helped make this project and dozens more possible throughout the year.

The students send a huge thank you to Tutta Bella and Tat’s Delicatessen for the delicious gourmet lunch. The very few sandwiches that remained at the end of the day were donated to Tent City.

Text and photos by Adam Nance