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

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