An Elementary Change of Pace
By Alex Loughran Lamothe, corps member serving on the Comcast/NBCUniversal team at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School
City Year serves students from grades 3-10, and one might think that those two ends of the grade level spectrum are far removed from each other. The Comcast and NBCUniversal Team serving at Jeremiah E. Burke High School recently had an opportunity to put this idea to the test. From February 18-21, six of our corps members entered the halls of Joseph E. Tynan Elementary School in South Boston, where they forged lasting connections with a group of inspiring young scholars.
There, the team was supporting Boston Public Schools' Acceleration Academy. While most students were out of classes for February Break, a smaller group of students was back in school, getting extra help during the vacation week. Acceleration Academy is an opportunity for elementary and middle school students to take classes that prepare them for the English Language Arts Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment (MCAS) in March. Teachers also volunteered during their school break to prepare students for the test, and City Year corps members supported those teachers in providing 1:1 and small group tutoring. Together, they shared reading and writing strategies with eager young scholars.
As a reminder, the corps members serving at Tynan Elementary for the week serve at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School during the rest of the school year. Accustomed to working with students ages 14-17, they did not quite know what to expect. “Initially, I was anxious to transition from working with high school students to elementary [students],” said corps member Kelsey Baum.
Like Kelsey, high school corps members discovered that, although their service would be somewhat different, they could still make an immensely positive impact in their new students’ lives. On the first day, corps member Hai Cang shared a strategy with the whole class on how to write an introductory paragraph. His partner teacher was happy to integrate this into her instruction, and their students found the strategy to be extremely helpful.
The highlight of the week, however, was preparing for the culminating event – a choreographed dance with all the Acceleration Academy students for their friends and families. City Year contributed an energetic chant which ended with the words “Mass. Comp. Assessment Test/Just another way to say ‘Do your best!”
The dance was a huge success, and it was the best way to conclude a memorable Acceleration Academy. Corps member Molly Villagran-Mahoney summed up the team’s feelings well: “[I feel] inspired and rejuvenated, but sad [that] it’s over. I wish I could see these kids again.”
For Courtney Johnson, her belief in the power of young people was strengthened. “I saw the desire and interest in learning, the raw creativity and candidness, and the tenacious and bold personalities of young leaders.”
As the team looked forward to returning to their high school students at the Burke, corps member Taylor Whiting shared the main take-away: “Working with these students, not to mention dancing with them, has revitalized me for the rest of my service year.”