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What do City Year AmeriCorps members do? Run afterschool programs

City Year AmeriCorps members spend their days serving students as tutors, mentors and role models in 349 schools nationwide. Although they spend a significant amount of time in the classroom, City Year AmeriCorps members also support and lead afterschool programs designed to bolster student’s academic and social-emotional development and promote a love of learning.

City Year San José alumnae Kailey Rawston and Liza Flores share how they managed afterschool time and creatively kept about 100 first and second graders at A. J. Dorsa Elementary School engaged and motivated every day.

Service at City Year

What is your favorite part about being a City Year AmeriCorps member?

Kailey Rawston (KR) and Liza Flores (LF): Working with our students and watching them grow is the most rewarding part of our service. We particularly enjoy supporting our first and second graders as they are developing identities.

What type of afterschool programs are held at your school and how many students attend?

LF and KR: We have periods of homework support, nutritious snack and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) activities. During homework support, we conduct blending learning in which students rotate between different stations such as computer time, reading and puzzles. After blended learning, we transition into snack, where we offer a healthy alternative to common high-calorie snacks. Lastly, we teach educational STEAM lessons ranging from science projects to art and technology integration.

How is running afterschool programs part of your daily role as a City Year AmeriCorps member?

LF and KR: It’s one of the most significant parts of our day because it is how we build and maintain relationships with our students. During the day, we spend 30-minute to one-hour blocks with students in small group tutoring or during classroom support for our partner teachers. After school is when we get to spend time with our students and really learn about them.

How have you seen students improve and grow as a result of their participation in the afterschool program?

LF and KR: During STEAM, we teach lessons that engage students through topics they are interested in. We provide spaces for students to incorporate their own ideas for lesson plans and activities and allow them to teach their peers about challenging topics such as the scientific process of global warming. We have seen our students grow outside of academics, which is one of the most rewarding aspects of this job.

Throughout the year, students who previously had disruptive behavior issues now lead class projects and have opened up to us immensely. We have also seen growth in students who began the year knowing little to no English, who now work independently without needing our help to translate. Because of these changes, we have also seen these students grow in their personal and academic confidence and vocal participation in the classroom.

Learn more about City Year’s unique approach to learning.

How do you measure student progress in afterschool programs?

LF and KR: One way is through monitoring the amount of help they require from us. For example, we used to translate homework assignments for two of our students in the beginning of the year, and now they complete their homework on their own with limited questions. We also monitor student behavior and participation through a chart that tracks positive recognition and reinforcement. The students who receive the most “stars” or positive recognition earn leadership opportunities in the classroom and are assigned weekly jobs such as Teacher Helper, Computer Monitor and Line Leaders. These roles inspire students to do their best inside and outside of the classroom because they give them a sense of purpose and responsibility.

How do you keep students engaged and excited to continue what is already a long day of school?

LF and KR: Because we work with younger students, they tend to switch from projects very quickly; therefore, we incorporate breaks. In addition, we do not conduct these activities without student input. We give students an opportunity to share games and activities that they would like to participate in. We make sure to have a consistent schedule so that they know what to expect every day. Because of this, students know what is coming and look forward to certain parts of the day. For example, during blended learning time students look forward to computer rotations; during the middle of the program, students look forward to structured outdoor games; during snack, they look forward to STEAM activities. We always take time to refocus our students through meditation blocks where we ease them with transitions.

What resources do you use to support your afterschool role?

LF and KR: Before serving at Dorsa, we attended a summer program for elementary and middle school students and received training on working with students in small groups.

This experience allowed us the opportunity to work hands-on with students in the classroom and develop vital skills such as behavior management, attention-getters and general knowledge of what ETL entails. Throughout the year, we constantly collaborate with AmeriCorps members from other schools to share ideas and best practices.

This blog was initially posted on June 12, 2017, the last in an eight-part series about what City Year AmeriCorps members do every day in schools. It was updated and reposted in 2019.

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