Written by Katie Harris, AmeriCorps Member proudly serving at Merrydale Elementary School.

Stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, and imagine something with me. You’re back in third grade, and you’re trying to understand multiplication. As hard as you try, you just don’t understand the concept. So, you call over your City Year to help you through the problem. Together, you guys figure out the answer, but you’re still pretty down because you couldn’t figure it out on your own. Then, your City Year tells you, “math is hard and we all struggle with it at times, no need to beat yourself up.” You feel like you’re flying because you know that someone believes in you. Then you remember that the school day is almost over and City Year has to go home. But wait! Today is Tuesday and you have Girls On The Run afterschool. You say to yourself, “I can’t wait to hang out with City Year. They always make me feel good about myself.”

This scenario is exactly what the AmeriCorps Members at Merrydale Elementary experience on a daily basis through our afterschool programs. We get to see students realize their full potential while teaching them simple skills like art, dance, gardening, and running. It is a true privilege to teach these programs and to be a part of helping students learn that they are valuable.

Last Tuesday at “Girls On The Run,” our lesson for the day focused on teaching the girls’ positive self-worth. First, we asked them what negative statements they believe about themselves. Most of them said statements like: “I can’t do it” or “I am dumb!” Next, we partnered up the girls and showed them how to turn these negative statements into positive ones. Smiles flashed across their faces as they realized just how valuable they truly are.

We continued this encouraging practice while running our laps for the day. Each time a girl finished a lap, she had to write down a positive statement about herself. *Stephanie proudly showed me all the positive things she wrote. I couldn’t help but think that every time  she ran around the track and heard those negative voices in her head saying, “You can’t do this!” she pushed them aside and began to believe in herself.

Moments like this one are exactly why we do what we do; why we choose to stay an extra hour every day just to hang out with a bunch of kids. We believe it is so vital that we supply time for our students to learn truths like positive self-worth. In fact, as more opportunities like this occur through our afterschool programs, we believe over time we will see exponentially more kids entering society believing that they CAN DO IT, and that THEY ARE WORTH SOMETHING!! And that’s a beautiful thing!

*Student's name has been changed.

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