2015-02-24

A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm.  When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean.  People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish.  You can’t begin to make a difference!”

The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated.  But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean.  Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!”

The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said.  Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea.  Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.

*Adapted from “The Star Thrower” by Loren C. Eiseley

City Year has adopted the Starfish story as one of its founding stories. We use this story to remind ourselves of several important aspects of our service. First, even if we cannot reach all of our students, our service makes an incalculable difference on the students we do reach. Second, our dedication to our students may inspire others with the same idealism to help. Throughout the year, we write Starfish stories to highlight the difference we are making to a student.

My Starfish had a rough start in attendance first quarter. Due to an unfortunate combination of family vacations, illness, and lack of motivation, she finished the first quarter with only 72% average daily attendance. For second quarter, we started with time management skills. By creating an after school schedule, we were able to make sure she was getting to bed earlier and getting enough sleep to stay healthy. Once she was able to be in school more frequently, we moved on to work ethic. Based on the 10 Habits of Successful Students poster hanging in Ms. Ray’s room, I created a sticker chart and reward system. With our positive relationship, she was able to increase her average daily attendance to 84% for the second quarter. In the third quarter, my Starfish is striving for the 95% Club. The biggest change I’ve seen, aside from the numbers, is her change in attitude. Previously, she expected herself to fail classes because was never present enough to do all the work. This quarter, when she discovered she had a D in English, she was angry. “This is progress.” I reminded her. “Remember first quarter you couldn’t even turn in a binder check.” Secretly, though, I was glad she was upset because it showed me how much she cared. “I know, Ms. Griffin,” she said. “I’m just upset because I know I can do better.” Now that she has seen that she deserves a chance, I am hoping we can continue to work on that together.

By Kathleen Griffin

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