Recently, the T-Mobile Diplomas Now Team at Aki Kurose Middle School hosted their first ever Attendance and Behavior Rally. The entire student body entered the school gymnasium during the last period of the day as music blasted over the PA system. Some students walked in not knowing what to expect while others danced their way to their seats.
Once the school filled the gym, corps member Sean Morrin took the microphone and greeted the crowd with, “Welcome Aki students! Can you make some NOISE?” The gym absolutely erupted with cheers. The rally continued with the warm up “Shout If,” as students were encouraged to shout if they would answer ‘yes’ to the following questions:
Shout if you want to be rich when you grow up!
Shout if you want to go to college!
The kids were practically bouncing out of the bleachers by the time Sean asked the last question:
“Shout if you would tear up a million dollar winning lottery ticket!”
Around twenty students were tricked and they shouted, but their friends were quick to correct them. The shift in the crowd was tangible and when Sean repeated the question, half of the school was shouting “No! I would not do that!” Sean paused and explained,
“Each and every one of you is sitting on a winning lottery ticket. All you have to do is show up for school every day and do what we all know we have to do to be successful to cash it in. Every day that you do not show up to school, it’s like you are slowly tearing that winning ticket into smaller and smaller pieces. So who wants to cash in their winning lottery tickets?”
It was clear that his message had made an impact. But that was only the introduction.
For the next part of the rally, ten volunteers from each grade level were chosen to participate in a relay race against the other grades. Enthusiastic volunteers lined up for a race across the gym, one student at a time – but with a catch. Each grade level had a different challenge to complete on the far side of the gym before returning to the other:
- Eighth graders were challenged to ten consecutive jump-rope turns
- Seventh graders were challenged to do head spins on a baseball bat
- Sixth graders were challenged to only five jumping jacks
The sixth graders shone as winners, with all ten sixth graders finishing while the seventh and eighth grade were still on their fifth and sixth runners.
After the race was over, Sean asked, “Now, who thought that race was fair?” To no one’s surprise, the seventh and eighth grade did not, but the race was rigged for a specific reason. Sean explained, “Missing school is an unnecessary barrier to learning, and every day you miss makes it tougher on yourself.” In that moment, everything became evident – and the gym suddenly became silent.
In a moment school faculty and staff recalled for weeks afterward, the entire middle school student body quietly reflected on what attendance means to their academic success. To end the event on a positive note, students were drawn at random from a box where students drop their Behavior Bucks—an affirmative behavior management system corps members have developed this year—for the chance to throw a whipped cream-covered paper plate in the face of their favorite City Year corps member. The pies were a splash, and midway through the activity the entire crowd was chanting the names of corps members they hoped to see pie’d next.
The rally was a blast for all who were involved and a clear example of the Aki Kurose City Year team’s dedication, creativity, and overall impressiveness in their service. Extra credit for the event goes to Ed Brown and Chris Wodicka for designing the rally and to Sean Morrin for masterfully facilitating it. The rest of the Aki Kurose team, as always, gave their full support and their willingness to help… and of course get pie’d!