By Katrina Bitanga and Layvon Washington

On Tuesday, September 9, parents and guardians were invited to Abram Simon Elementary School's Back to School Night. The annual event, which began promptly at 5:30 p.m., is an opportunity for parents and guardians to meet their student's teachers, aids, principal, nurse and other staff who are an integral part of the success of the school. The program began with an introduction from the principal, Kim Spence, about the goals of the current academic year and was followed by an introduction to City Year and its corps members. Parents and guardians received information about what role their student's corps members have in their respective classrooms. "It was nice to get to know our student's support system," said corps member Mankaprr Conteh, who is currently placed in a fifth grade classroom. "Parents are truly some of our best allies.”

In an effort to improve overall attendance, Simon offers some programs aimed at getting students to school promptly. One such program, Bringing Our Kids Success (BOKS), has proven to be a continual success over the last four years--more than tripling membership since its inception. BOKS is a 12-week long program focused on personal fitness and health.  It began in September, and will continue again in February, includes 45 minutes of varying fitness segments along with a nutritional health aspect. Though run by two staff members, Mr. Shabazz and Mr. Curtis, the program has been further supported by two City Year corps members: Allie Bloom and Muna Mohamad. Since BOKS students have to arrive by 7 a.m. to be part of the program, these participants are less likely to miss breakfast and class.

Muna, a first-grade corps member, finds that she is able to engage with more students from different grade levels throughout the school--including older siblings of the students she has in her classroom. “The kids have another thing to talk to me about,” she said, “that they don’t just see me as another adult, but also as another participant in BOKS.” Third-grade corps member, Allie, added, “It’s fun to see the kids in a non-academic setting and getting them excited about health and fitness.”  Mr. Shabazz, the physical education instructor, also added that the extra help is necessary since the program is successful with more familiar persons around.

The BOKS program, coupled with the terrific turn-out for Back to School Night, has given Simon Elementary School students a strong start for the academic year. The students appear to love the program and many involved are enthusiastic about the day.

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