by Devin Kirby, AmeriCorps member serving on the National Grid team with The English High School
It was a quiet, peaceful day at after school, until suddenly a student said to me: “A’ight, Kirby! I seen you!”
The student could read my puzzled expression, I guess, because he immediately started frantically waving towards the double door entrance to the cafeteria, where our after school homework help program takes place.
“Come look!” he stated
And there it was, the summation of my week of modest training. On the official letterhead, I saw that I had earned the Scholar Athletes MVP of the Week. I had participated in a student-faculty game earlier that week scoring twelve points, six boards, and a highlight-worthy steal from the starting varsity point guard. I felt like Michael Jordan after his first three-peat—better yet, I felt cosmically awesome, more like Michael Jordan in Space Jam.
Scholar Athletes (SA) has a firm presence at The English. Like many high schools in Boston Public Schools (BPS), The English houses a SA Zone, which provides high school athletes with after school tutoring, access to free computers, and general mentorship to address obstacles unique to balancing grades and competitive sport. Overseen by a City Year alumnus, Seth Rotberg '14, the Zone is a heavily utilized resource in The English community and has been an outstanding pillar of support for our team this year.
One of my favorite Zone sub-programs is The English Intramural League, where students form teams and play weekly basketball games against their peers to hone their skills for upcoming tryouts or simply to get a good run in. And the league is no joke, either—the games are held in the school gym, complete with a digital scoreboard. In addition, students get official SA jerseys while stats and standings are diligently recorded and displayed around the school on large posters. The catch is that students must complete an hour of homework at the Zone every week to be eligible to play. Time at our after school program, as well as clubs or other student organizations, also counts. Students who play well and spend a significant amount of time at the Zone get singled out as weekly MVPs, with their own dedicated poster emblazoned with their headshot. The top twelve students with the highest total amount of time in the Zone get to participate in the bi-annual student-faculty games as the SA All-Stars.
SA’s impact is obvious at The English, which is in no short supply of extraordinary athletic talent. The organization goes out of its way to ensure that its student-athletes remain academically eligible to play, and the students return this dedication in kind. For instance, some of the All-Stars had clocked ten, twelve, or fifteen hours of tutoring time over a span of a month. And, peering at a relatively pedestrian stat line on the back of the cafeteria door, I felt the intangible value of BSA’s partnership as well.
While it might seem silly, the acknowledgement of student effort on and off the field or court and the friendly competition it fosters amongst the student body breeds a sense of positive self-worth and self-image, validation, passion, and commitment. My junior year of high school, I won a Coaches’ Choice award at our annual sports banquet for my hard work and leadership on my varsity basketball team. I remember it fondly every time I glance at the trophy, which still sits on my desk at home to this day. For SA to deliver this feeling to a student daily as he passes by his MVP display in the stairwell, or the cafeteria, or the Zone itself, is simply a slam dunk.