Starfish take Social Action

Jessie Curry is 22 years old and from Iowa. She works as a mentor and tutor for Wing Luke Elementary's 5th grade class. One of her favorite student moments was when a second grade girl decided to give the City Year Team nicknames. Jessie was named "cute eyebrow."

The Starfish Corps after-school program promotes academic success, educational learning, service, and positive leadership for 3rd-5th grade students. The program is run by City Year corps members. During the day corps members work as in-class, full-time mentors and tutors. In the afternoon, corps members run the Starfish Corps after-school program.

The Starfish Corps at Wing Luke Elementary has been hard at work learning about “needs and wants”.  For the past six weeks, the students have learned about many facets of the phrase “needs and wants” through a variety of activities including art projects, relay races, and games.

The Samsung City Year Team at Wing Luke Elementary provides intensive in-class tutoring as well as the Starfish afterschool program.

The Starfish gained an understanding of how wanting a new gaming system and needing food to eat are different experiences just as wanting friendship and needing to feel cared about are different experiences. Through a role playing game, the Starfish discovered how a family’s size, salary, and unexpected life events can change what a need or want is for that family. The Starfish also explored which elements are needed in a community to create a positive environment for people to live. In addition to learning about wants and needs, the Starfish had the opportunity to take action and fulfill the emotional needs of patients at the Seattle Children’s Hospital by creating cards and letters for them.

The Starfish Corps discussed how there are issues, such as stealing or bullying, that can affect our needs and wants. To address these issues, the Starfish created public service announcement videos that spoke out against acts that impact the ability for students to feel safe and happy at Wing Luke. The goals for this project were for the students to be creative, work together, and send out a message about why the issue is wrong, how it impacts them, and to encourage others to make choices that would positively affect the Wing Luke community.

Students in the Starfish corps participate in after-school programming.

The Starfish definitely stepped up and produced great videos surrounding the ideas of bullying and stealing. Each team put a different spin on their Public Service Announcement and expressed powerful opinions including:

“Stop bullying now.  Pass it on.”

“Don’t steal; it hurts people’s hearts.”

“Stop bullying.  It needs to stop.”

“Stealing makes me feel unsafe, sad, and angry.”

Not only did every student participate in this project, but the teams had the chance to speak out against real issues that have recently occurred in their school. The City Year team at Wing Luke hopes to incorporate the videos into Monday morning assemblies so that the Starfish Corps can address a need in their school for social change and awareness.

By being a part of this program, the Starfish students have the chance to share a powerful message with their peers, elicit change through creative videos, and fulfill a social need for their school.

*Text written by Jessie Curry.

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

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

Making A Difference at Roxhill Elementary

City Years in the classroom - oh yes!

Corps members tutor students in the classroom

The Starfish Story is one of City Year‘s founding stories. It talks about how making a difference to one student, while it may seem minimal, can compound into making a huge impact. This is one of City Year Seattle‘s Starfish experience.

Calvin is a third-grade Latino student in my class. He is also an eight-year-old boy who has missed the better part of his second grade year and apparently his first grade year due to obesity-related health issues. As a result, Calvin is tremendously behind academically. Although he is in third grade, he began the year barely able to write his own name without having someone trace the letters first.

Regardless of his circumstances, Calvin is a boy with a heart of gold who has always been tremendously optimistic about school. In my nearly three years of working with elementary students, I have never met a child (or possibly anyone) who is as genuinely caring and sincere as he is. In fact, Calvin’s happy attitude is what made me so eager to work with him.

I collaborated with his teacher and his special education teacher to find activities for Calvin to do while the rest of the class is occupied with their group lessons. We organized a curriculum where Calvin will play math and reading games on a customized website during the time he had previously been drawing or otherwise unproductive.

Now, when the teacher begins her lesson, I take that opportunity to get Calvin set up on a computer to play his assigned math/reading games. In addition, the reading coach at Roxhill Elementary has been coming in to provide reading/writing intervention periodically throughout the day.

In the Starfish Corps after-school program that City Year provides, I keep a special eye out to make sure Calvin is doing something productive. This after-school program is designed to explore the basic building blocks of community and leadership. The program emphasizes the students’ voice, encouraging them to explore the social factors that influence their community and to express their ideas and feelings about them. Throughout the year students learn and serve together in small teams, exploring the qualities that make us unique while forging positive, cooperative relationships. Through this program, I’ve had the opportunity to see Calvin in a unique light: running around and playing with the others and engaging with his fellow students in the club. This may not seem particularly impressive to most people except for the fact that–due to his conflict with obesity– Calvin is usually very reserved and shy, especially when it comes to physical activity.

In the two months that I’ve been at Roxhill, I’ve watched Calvin grow from being a third-grade student who could not write his name without help to being able to write nearly half a page by himself. I’ve seen him go from dreading being embarrassed in front of his class to being excited about doing his lessons. And, most importantly, I see him having fun at his school. While I can’t come close to taking all the credit, I do like to think that maybe I have a small part in the catalyst that could potentially change the rest of Calvin’s life.

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

Text by William Smith, City Year Seattle/King County corps member serving at Roxhill Elementary

Photo by Jennifer Cogswell