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Welcome to Academic Support Blocks: Creating Supportive Spaces for our Students

At each of our schools, our AmeriCorps members work together as a team to lead initiatives or events that help build more positive learning environments for our students. This year, the team serving at the Middle School at Parkside has started running “Academic Support Blocks”, drop-in spaces where any student can ask for help with assignments. Read to hear how the initiative started, and the impact it is having on students.

Meet the Monday Academic Support Crew, with Jacy Mikenas (5th Grade), Kailey Johnson (6th Grade), Micah Tatebe (7th Grade), and ACMs Richard Banach (8th Grade).

Our idea for offering extra Academic Support Blocks first started in the 5th grade with our teammate Elinor Bragaw. She and her partner teacher decided to host a space where students could drop in and finish any assignments or ask for help. It became a school wide initiative when we received information that there was a greater school wide need in getting extra academic support to our students, and could be a crucial part of our service. Elinor voiced this to our team and Impact Manager, and soon this became a weekly part of our service.

Academic Support Blocks are held through a Google Meet that all students have access to. We hold academic support Monday through Thursday and each corps member has a shift. In each support bock, we have four team members; one from each grade. That way, even if the student isn’t in the class we serve in, there is still someone present at each session who is familiar with the grade-level content to be able to help the student, and this has also allowed us to build connections with students we wouldn’t normally see.

Every day I bring up the benefits of academic support to my students. My partner teachers have been very supportive of the program and have posted our schedule to their advisory stream and have brought it up in class. For a while none of my students were showing up, or at least not to my shift. Finally, one Monday, I had two students show up for academic support. They were partners working on a science project and had fallen behind. I was able to help them catch up and they were able to have my undivided attention to ask questions. By the end of the hour, they were all set to start the next part of the project.

Micah Tatebe, who takes the Monday shift for 7th grade, talks about his success with one of his students. “The opportunities that in person service has provided me have been great in reminding her and building that relationship up to make her want to come. We joke around a lot so we have a good relationship and she knows that I just want her to succeed.”

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Learn more about how City Year’s holistic approach of developing relationships with students and integrating social-emotional development into academic interventions is working for students and schools in this recent study from John Hopkins.

When asked about cross-collaboration, Jenn O’Brien who works in 5th grade says, “It’s been cool to see other teammates in action and getting to interact and catch up with their students before going into a break out room.” She also observed how, “It’s cool for the kids to get to know other City Years other than the ones in their classroom.” Jenn has worked with one of Abbey’s 5th grade student and has gotten to know him, along with Jacy’s 5th grade students on her Wednesday shift. Because of the hybrid and remote learning schedules, students only interact with their teams and the students in their own classes. Jenn has noticed the joy students feel when they’re able to reconnect with classmates they haven’t seen since last year. “It’s also cool for students to see other students that they haven’t seen in a while because of COVID. Because we mostly interact with the students in their teams.”

Since January, nearly 60 different students have taken advantage of our Academic Support blocks, and have expressed a feeling of relief in finishing missing assignments and being better prepared for their upcoming tests and quizzes.  Each week many of our team’s joys comes from having an impact in Academic Support, and we look forward to offering it for the remainder of the year.

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