By Jackie Ruggiero, AmeriCorps member serving on the Beech Street Elementary School Team.
“Miss R., what club do you have today?” I hear this phrase almost every Tuesday and Thursday as I walk around the lunchroom while chatting with Beech students during snack time before the dismissal to clubs. One might expect that it is my own third grade students who want to know if I will be in clubs with them, but it is not. Instead I get this question from students who are not in my classroom, including some whose names I don’t even know yet. This is what I love about after school clubs. I have forged bonds with students who don't have me as their City Year, and some who have no City Year at all. 21st Century, Manchester’s after school program, has provided me the opportunity to make an impact on Beech Street Elementary as a whole, rather than impacting just the 23 students that I have in my class.
The joy that I get from being with students of different grades is heightened when three other City Years and I run our own club called “Action!” Action! is an improv club that we created to help students step out of their comfort zone, or “get squishy” as us City Years like to call it. In it, we do different skits or games, with each having a lesson to take away from it. Some teach us how to support one another, some teach us how to try new things, and some just teach us how to be silly with each other. Regardless of what we do, the students know that Action! will provide them with a safe space where they can unwind and tap into their creativity.
Though the last day of Action! is approaching, we are gearing up for the Beech Street Starfish Corps that my teammates and I run after school as well. Starfish Corps, as I describe to my students, is like a “mini City Year.” It comes complete with its own pledge, values, and even PT moves, which are physical training exercises to get them ready to serve. So many students at Beech have created strong relationships with their City Years, but do not always know that we work to build relationships with the community as well. While they see us four days a week, there is a large element of our service that they do not get to see at all. Starfish Corps gives students an opportunity to have a first-hand experience of what their City Years do every Friday when they are not in school. Starfish Corps also helps students understand that City Year is not just about tutoring; rather, it is about making better happen. Through Starfish Corps, we are making an impact on our students by showing them that though they may be young, they too can make a difference in the world. And while our students gain knowledge about City Year and being change-makers, they don’t realize how much us City Years gain from getting to be in a club with them.
If you or someone you know is interested in serving a year with City Year, get in touch with a recruiter today! Our next application deadline is April 19.