Starfish Opening Day

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The Starfish After-School Program is a City Year-led program for elementary school students. City Year corps members spend their school day tutoring and mentoring students and then, to extend the learning day,  students are invited to join Starfish after the final bell … Continue reading

Welcome 2011-2012 Corps Members!

2011-2012 corps members participate in team building exercises in preparation for their service as tutors, mentors and role models in Seattle schools.

City Year Seattle/ King County would like to officially welcome our 2011 – 2012 corps!

Each year the corps grows stronger and the City Year Seattle/King County 2011-2012 corps is certainly no exception. Our new corps clearly demonstrates the continued momentum felt throughout the 21 national and two international City Year sites. Their enthusiasm and experience will help to empower their service through the duration of the year as mentors and tutors in six of Seattle’s public schools. This year’s partner schools include Aki Kurose Middle School, Dearborn Park Elementary School, Denny International Middle School, Roxhill Elementary School, West Seattle High School and Wing Luke Elementary School.

These corps members can't wait to serve Seattle students!

Our corps’ backgrounds are diverse, hailing from 27 states in all! They are tied by the commonality of extensive volunteer experience and a commitment to service. Made up of seven recent high school graduates and 46 college graduates, this year’s corps includes individuals with teaching experience, first generation college graduates, ACLU national award recipients, ultimate frisbee national champions and an elected official!

In the 2011-2012 academic year, corps members will impact the whole school population of our six partner schools (over 3,500 students), provide classroom support for over 600 students, and spend at least 2.5 hours of one-on-one tutoring with over 300 students who are highly at risk of dropping out of school. Within our focus groups of students, we expect at least 50% will improve their academic performance with the help of a City Year corps member. With such a diverse, motivated and hardworking corps, we are already on track towards meeting our ambitious goals this year.

Welcome, City Year Seattle/King County 2011 – 2012 corps, we can’t wait to see the impact you’ll make in the lives of Seattle students!

*Text by Senior Corps Member Denise Rene Taylor

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

From Distractions to Mastering Fractions

City Year corps member tutoring a student

This is the second in our series of Starfish Stories.  Read more about our starfishes to find out more about how  City Year Seattle is making a difference in the lives of children all around the city.

Sara* was always out of her seat – something was always fascinating her on the other side of the classroom, someone always provoking her to give them a piece of her mind, some unused pencil always somehow needing to be sharpened. It was always some excuse, and her work always remained unfinished. I would work with her at her seat, but she was a master of the art of distraction. On a good day, I could get her to put her name on the page and complete the first problem before she demanded to use the restroom – her favorite escape plan.

At first glance, it might seem as though she is just an overactive nine year old being a trouble maker. Beneath the surface, however, is a little girl who is always out of her seat because she is too scared of what might happen if she were to sit down.  She knows that she is having trouble understanding the material, and that is something she cannot bring herself to face.

On that day, I took a different approach. I brought her to a separate area of the room, out of view of curious classmates. She was avoiding word problems about division, so I retrieved some unit counters and placed them in front of her.

Mary has twenty cupcakes. There are ten students in Mary’s class. How many cupcakes does each student get? Pretend that these counters are delicious cupcakes. You’re Mary. What do you do?

Step by step, we worked through the first problem with a tangible strategy she could see, feel, and finally grasp. In the three months I had been in her classroom, I had never seen her work as hard as she did that afternoon. I saw her engage each problem with new found confidence: She had finally got it.

Suddenly, there was a commotion from the other side of the room. I feared this would distract Sara; however, to my surprise and delight, Sara picked up her head and said, “You can go deal with that, Miss Malia. I’ll be fine.” I really think you will be, Sara, I thought to myself, and I left her to finish her work.

Since that day, I’ve watched her using those counters, also known as manipulatives, to help her understand her math.  The fact that Sara’s realizing more and more that she learns in a tactile manner and that she can do her math if she uses the right method reminds me why I’m serving with City Year and why I’m doing this work.

I’m not just teaching these kids facts and numbers and algorithms.  I’m also teaching them how to learn and work through problems on their own, and in the process building up their confidence towards gaining skills and increasing intelligence.

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

Text by Malia Makowski, City Year Seattle/King County corps member serving at Dearborn Park Elementary

Photo by Romel Antoine