By Jack Wolfe
One aspect of City Year’s service you’re probably less familiar with (I’m not sure if we’ve blogged about it yet, faithful readers) is Saturday Heroes, a monthly leadership development and social awareness program for students from the 6th to 12th grade. It’s a piece of the CY puzzle that’s especially dear to me, as I’ve been co-leading its implementation in Columbus for the past two service years. It’s a piece that also gets smaller and smaller every year across our network: our organization’s recent emphasis on Whole School, Whole Child in school service means a reduction of weekend programs such as these. Where there once were whole teams devoted to planning and executing these babies (on a by-weekly basis!), there is now just me and my supervisor, cobbling together six hours of learning during the downtime of our respective roles.
Heroes is a extremely unique program. Simply put, you can do things on a Saturday that would be impossible to do in a school. You can deep dive into difficult topics for hours on end. You can take trips around the city to see what makes the community tick. You can invite guest leaders to give workshops and speeches. You can bring together kids from all across the school district— you can reach out to students you don’t see every day, and improve relationships with those who you do. Heroes is a time like no other for City Year to do what City Year wants to do, whether that be a simulation, a service project, or a social studies lesson that actually engages!
Here in Columbus, we’ve done five programs this year: Leadership, Community Understanding, Poverty, Education, and Ageism. Last Saturday’s Ageism program was mostly discussion-based, with chunks dedicated to topics like “Why don’t we respect our elders?” and “What are our rights as students?”. The turnout wasn’t as good as I would have liked, especially given the energy and interest our Corps Members brought to the day (the Corps alternates… half of them go to the even Saturdays, and half go to the odd Saturdays). But those Heroes who did show up were into it. I know one of them in particular, let’s call her “A,” is really appreciating our efforts: she told us in a letter that the Saturday program has showed her how anyone can be a leader. (If you knew “A,” you would be crying right now.) It really raises my spirit to know that in this year, supposedly the last for the Heroes program, our Saturday service is making a difference.