By Nathaniel Pila
AmeriCorps member on the Northrop Grumman team serving at Ketcham Elementary School

One day this last fall, the City Year team at Ketcham Elementary School received all sorts of comments and questions from our after school students during the school day:

“What are we going to do for after school today?”

“My family is coming!”

And, my personal favorite: “Is there going to be food?”

Our students were in for a treat. After a month of planning, a million phone calls, and much collaboration, the team’s first event was only a few hours away.

Our Fall Cultural Festival was intended to be a carnival-like event that engaged our afterschool students, their families, and external organizations in the community. I am happy to say that this was accomplished – and more. Not only did we accomplish our engagement goals, but we even had school faculty and staff members come check the event out, including our principal and assistant principal! Coincidentally, there were parent-teacher conferences happening that afternoon, so even students that weren’t in the afterschool program came with their families and stopped by to see what City Year had to offer.

The event had something for everyone, students and adults alike. From our ‘Chopsticks Challenge’ to ‘Fishing in the Nile River,’ our students explored several cultural aspects of the foreign countries they learned about in the first month of after school. But, of course, one of the most important parts of culture is food. For both students and adults, our team managed to serve a variety of foods with origins from all over the world: stuffed grape leaves, hummus and pita, nachos, orange chicken, chicken wings, and apple cider were just some of the items from our menu. We had two external partners — FRESHFARM Markets and From the Farmer Washington, DC — who not only provided fun activities and free books to our students, but they helped educate our families about fresh food! They brought fresh food displays, a raffle spinner for prizes (including books), fun activity sheets, and free apples for all.

It’s hard to pinpoint what my favorite part of the event was. The food looked amazing and the kids enjoyed our activities so much that some actually got upset when they were told that their 

parent or guardian was there to pick them up from school. I could tell our volunteers had fun too. For example, our “fish” in the Nile River sometimes would have students come talk to her and I saw the smile on her face as the students left to take part in another activity. Everybody had a great time and that is awesome—that’s exactly what we wanted.

And now it’s time for Putting Idealism to Work! Bing! PITW #42: Find a Sponsor for Everything. I know for a fact that our event would not have been such a success if it weren’t for all the externals that donated to us and came to our event. All of our food was donated to us by local businesses. Our external partners helped parents learn something as their children visited activity stations and also helped the kids have a great time. And an employee from Northrop Grumman, our team’s sponsor, even surprised us and volunteered alongside us! Our team worked hard for our event and we are so grateful that we managed to get the support of so many different organizations. We could not have done it without them! Here’s hoping our next big event is just as successful!

Thank you so much to our sponsors!
Northrop Grumman (Team Sponsor)
From the Farmer Washington, DC
Uniontown Bar & Grill
Panda Express
Harris Teeter
Yes! Organic Market
Krispy Kreme
Frager’s Paint

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