On Monday, January 19, 2015, City Year Tulsa, Reading Partners and community volunteers will come together to paint inspirational murals in three buildings on the Daniel Webster High School campus. The school's Assistant Principal, Steve Butcher, took time to share the impact that City Year Tulsa has made in his school.
Over the Christmas break, the game of choice for my family was a new version of Jenga. It is engaging for my college- and high school-aged daughters, as well as my son in kindergarten. With careful consideration, we slowly remove pieces and replace them as we push towards our family goal of 25 levels. The excitement builds as each piece is removed. The structure sways but remains intact, until you pull the one piece that was so critical to your success.
City Year is just such a piece to the complex structure of Webster High School. Each day is a challenge to build relationships with students that will meet and exceed our expectations. Corps members face this daily mission with zeal. I see it every day in the classrooms and hallways. I envy their opportunity to be near-peers, their capacity to mentor as college-age students, their desire to “make better happen.”
Webster has experienced impressive strides during the Growing Together grant. But much of the positive change has occurred during the current school year. Many students who were off-track earlier in the year are now on-track and still improving. Attendance for the school is a solid 90%. Suspensions have declined by more than 40% over this same time in the last school year. What’s changed since last year? The red coats arrived! City Year has been essential in ‘making better happen’ at Webster. As a Diplomas Now school, they are an equal partner in the mission to see Webster achieve great things.
Students are noticing how invested corps members are in the school. Though we have a small group, it seems like red jackets are everywhere: classrooms, hallways, games, recitals, concerts, EWI’s. Participation is a central component of citizenship – taking an active role in the world around us requires purposeful action. City Year corps members model exemplary citizenship daily.
Webster will see over a hundred volunteers take part in the City Year MLK Day of Service. Service to others is an obvious theme in the work of City Year. Dr. King motivated the masses to practice what he called "a kind of dangerous unselfishness", so that we strive to not only better ourselves, but our fellow man. The civil rights marches of the 60’s continue, albeit in smaller steps. But the inequities of society still affect our students…our communities.
When students return to school the Tuesday following MLK Day, they will again see the commitment of City Year to the school…to the community. Maybe along the corps members’ journey, which resonates with the marches of the 60’s, students will take their own first steps in service to others.
City Year has absolutely influenced attendance, behavior, and core-course performance (ABC’s) at Webster High School. I so appreciate the incredible strides we are making. But as the MLK Day of Service approaches, I realize that perhaps something more important is taking place among the red coats. City Year is going one step beyond ABC’s. They are helping to develop young people who know how to practice good citizenship – students who understand what service to others really means.
Steve Butcher is the Assistant Principal at Daniel Webster High schoool, located in west Tulsa. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Steve has worked for Tulsa Public Schools for more than ten years.
City Year Tulsa is powered by ther service of AmeriCorps members. For more information about serving with City Year Tulsa, visit http://www.cityyear.org/tulsa. Applications due February 15.