COTA’s Rosa Parks Day

By: Sarai Exil

I’ve been given the greatest opportunity to work in Linden-McKinley STEM Academy. Each day, I’m greeted to sour faces and extremely rude comments. I serve in a classroom with sassy ninth graders, quiet tenth graders, apathetic eleventh graders, and scarce twelfth graders who have yet to meet the math requirements for graduation. I am lucky enough to have a break in the middle of the day to travel to an eighth grade classroom where I tutor students in pre-algebra! Sadly, the questions we work on in eighth grade are very similar to the problems my students still struggle with in the high school. Of course, I can’t forget that as After-School Co-Coordinator I serve with both seventh and eighth grade from Monday to Thursday, 2:45 to 5:00. What I’m trying to say is that I’m absolutely blessed that I’m able to work with each and every grade at my school.

Every now and then, City Year will do a service that creates a perfect harmony in my soul. I personally love to work with elementary students. They are full of energy one moment, crying the next, and never fail to surprise me. Once a month, we are given the opportunity to impact more than the schools in which we serve. On December 1st, the Columbus Corps joined the COSI Science Museum, Columbus Ohio Transit Authority, and The Ohio State University to remember the woman who impacted the Civil Rights movement with one defiant act. Rosa Parks Day was celebrated on the second level of COSI with more than 800 students in grades K through 3rd from Columbus City Public Schools. I, of course, was overjoyed with the expectation of little children to smile, high-five, and play with.

Our job as a Corps was to help the teachers and chaperones guide their students from the buses to the actual event. I was the last person the children would see, so I was required to ask them to take off their coats so that they might sit on them once they were seated on the floor. The anticipation of the children overwhelmed me since we waited over an hour and a half, but my wonderful members of the Corps helped me out by playing a modified game of Telephone (if you get a chance to play, make each person add to the first statement to create some sort of story. It’s super fun).

Hamilton STEM Academy was the first to arrive (one of our partner schools), and the kids kept on coming! I received wonderful smiles, many high-fives, and even a few hugs. The day’s comments were not the harsh, morning words I was used to, but quite happy and funny enough to get me to laugh!

“Can I pull your hair to make sure it’s real?”

“Where did you get that headband? My mom has one that looks just like that. Do you know my mom?”

“I don’t know why I’m here. I know more about Rosa Parks than anyone else in this place!”

“Why are they making me sit on my jacket? I just bought it!”

“If Rosa Parks was still in jail, and I had money, I would have paid for her to have gotten out.”

The event was filled with inspirational speakers, COTA President and CEO Bill Lhota, Archie Griffin, president and CEO of the Ohio State Alumni Association, Joyce Beatty, senior vice president for outreach and engagement at OSU, President of The Ohio State University, Dr. Gordon Gee, and a surprising guest appearance from Brutus Buckeye, OSU’s mascot.

Rosa Parks gave us all the wonderful chance to become friends with anyone, regardless of race. As a country we have evolved to include sex, religion, gender, and disability into the discrimination act. Without the forefront activists, where would we be now?

These kids wouldn’t have been at COSI. The scattered Caucasian students and teachers would no longer be a part of their schools. I wouldn’t be in an awesome Corps with so many different individuals, or be able to work with students at LMSA on their math, or even to have been able to receive a good education.

So, cheers to a tired woman who refused to give into the power of intimidation, fear, and ignorance. Thank you, Rosa Parks.


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