Dr Seuss and Read Across America Day


By: Christine Olding

Dr. Seuss is one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. A man we are all familiar with and who personally changed my life as a small child. I could sit here and talk to you about who he was and the books he wrote, however, I am going to show you how Dr. Seuss directly affects my service.

Most of you have heard the quote, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” A quote that I use daily in my service. A few weeks ago, I was alerted that one of my 4th grade students was being bullied due to his size and intellect. I decided that it was duty to help him through this time. He’s never been the type of kid to use violence to solve his problems and I could tell he was having a hard time coping with this new onset of bullying. I wanted to make sure he realized and took pride in how amazing he truly is. So, I decided to show him this quote. After showing him we talked about what the quote meant and differing ways he could “protect” himself from negative situations that he would find himself in. We talked about his friends, family, what he wanted to be when he grew up and an acronym S.A.S.S (stay calm; assess the situation, solution orientated and self-confidence). Together we talked through the good and the bad and solutions to a multitude of problems.  I continue to meet with this student and we continue to discuss how to better handle situations and how to find confidence in who you are.

I know that this is an unconventional way to celebrate the birth and influence of such a great writer, however, to me, it is the best way to say thank you. Thank you Dr. Seuss for helping one 4th grade student find out who he is and all the wonderful things he can do.

This Friday February 24th is Read Across America Day for City Year Columbus. A day we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Seuss.  This year, the book that is being showcased this year is The Lorax, in observance of the moving coming out this year. The theme this year is green and some suggestions to make your school community green include: making a reading garden, planting a Truffala tree forest or even just having a Lorax lead your schools reading parade.  So, grab a pick and grab a kid and help Dr. Seuss change their lives like he changed mine, yours and 4th Andrew.

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Hand in Hand


By: Jackie Gibbs

Because community is an important City Year value, its essence has become a repetition throughout our service. I have found that reaching out beyond our partner schools is when that sense of community is most present.

Over the holiday the corps participated in Thanksgiving Service Day at Heyl Elementary School. Having learned that Heyl Elementary was once a partner school with City Year, I was thrilled to know that the school understood the organization and even more so that the students recognized us. Entering as a stranger, but having been welcomed as a long, lost friend insinuated the feeling of connection.

I assisted two fellow corps members in a 2nd Grade English Classroom. We focused on reading short stories and writing holiday cards to children in hospitals. As we hovered in the doorway to the second grade classroom waiting for the teacher to choose a group of students who were to make holiday cards with City Year, small voices cried in chorus, “Pick me! Pick me!” I scanned the room and my eyes began to water as I noticed one of the students bawling in the corner because he wasn’t chosen.

By lunchtime I felt like a celebrity. Many of the students we had just taught and even students near by who joined for the mere fact that their friends were, shouted, “Sit by me! Sit by me!” The room was filled with laughter and cheer, which to my amazement ended almost as instantly as it began. Heyl enforces a clapping system that can only be emulated by listening to the sound of the beat, which requires everyone to be quiet. Instantly, everyone was working together and organization was maintained

The part of the day I had been looking forward to had finally arrived: recess! While I love serving at a high school, in a 9th grade classroom, and would not trade that for any other grade, I do look forward to recess because after teaching in a hot building cooped up in a classroom filled with the B.O. of growing teenagers, it’s all I can do to dream for some sort of outdoor activity. I scanned through all of the dramatic demands that might occur during a normal day at recess from past stories I had heard from corps members. I couldn’t tell you how many times students asked me to pick them up to reach the monkey bars and how pleased I was to inform the students of my Jell-O arms that couldn’t lift anything (thank you CSX and Chase teams)! Needless to say, I was still clobbered by a mass of children who were supposedly playing an innocent game of tag.

Just before we began to end the day a few corps members presented a brief career advancement speech to a group of select students. During questions and comments the principal shared a story about a mother who had been running late for an appointment who, having become familiar with City Year, entrusted her child with a corps member to escort them safely to school. City Year is seen as a protection and the fact that schools and parents, who don’t personally know City Year corps members, will entrust the safety of their child in City Year hands shows something about community.

Later on, the principal had informed us of the ongoing talk about consolidating schools together, which would mean the possibility of closing Heyl Elementary down in the process. Because Heyl Elementary plays a pivotal part in the community, without it, there would be no unifying factors to hold the community together.

As I was leaving one of the students asked when City Year was coming back. The reaction from the students at Heyl gives me hope for future service days to contribute to the impact of community within other schools.

Penny Harvest, It Just Makes Cents!


By: Christine Olding

Each week I write about differing stories of how City Year is impacting the students we serve, but how do the students we serve impact their communities? This week, I am going to explore the Penny Harvest, a way for our students to raise money for local, state, and national charities through their own philanthropic endeavors.

Penny Harvest was founded in 1991 as a way to show children that they too can make a difference. Since 1991, $8.1 million in grants have been awarded to various community organizations, all from pennies. This opportunity allows the children to do something that they are often not given the chance to do: make a difference. It allows our students to contribute to things that they view as important. Each classroom votes on a differing cause or organization that will get their pennies.  Penny Harvest allows the students in each classroom to have a common goal that they must collaborate on to make come true.

Penny Harvest was first introduced to me by the student council at Hamilton. During morning announcements a few weeks ago, the students got on over the intercom and did a skit introducing the idea to the rest of the student body. Within their three to five minute skit they hit the main goal of the idea: to raise money for charities…with pennies. They then came around to each classroom handing out small colorful paper bags and burlap sack.  Upon first hearing about that they would be raising money solely with pennies; I was a little taken back and thought to myself, “how are pennies ever going to make a difference?”  I know this is a rather pessimistic outlook for a young idealist like me; however, sometimes you have to look at things for what they are. Though, I thought the idea might not be the most effective in the entire world, I was still interested to see how the students would react to this challenge.

I quickly began to realize that my previous thoughts on the matter were seriously mistaken. Each day I would watch in amazement as the students in my classrooms would march in carrying as many pennies as their paper bags could handle. They would get a small reward of a sticker each time they donated. Every day I would be reminded by the announcements of the growing astronomical amount of pennies each classroom was bringing in. I realized that, though these students may not have a lot to give, they are willing to give whatever they do have to help others.

50 Acts of Kindness Update


By: Christine Olding

If you remember, a few weeks back, I wrote a blog entry depicting the new behavior initiative that we were going to implement at Hamilton STEM Academy. That behavior initiative is called 50 Acts. It is meant to help the most behaviorally challenged students in school to become leaders within their school and community. Each week I meet with six differing students and discuss differing ways to handle the situations they face and also, their emotions. I do that in a variety of ways, but I have found that simply having basic discussions works best with the group of students I work with. I, also, ask each of the students’ one act of leadership they have done that week. It can be something as simple as saying “Thank You”, to as complex as, a detailed story of they helped a member of their family. Each week brings new stories and new challenges. Here is a walk-through of a typical meeting my 50 Acts group.

I go to get my group of students every Wednesday at 12:20 P.M. From that time until 12:45, we eat our lunches and talk. I start out each meeting of, “Miss Christine’s Secret Lunch Crew”, by asking them their act of leadership for the week. It always amazes me how eager each student is to tell me what positive things they have done that week. Some of my favorite acts of leadership that have occurred within my group consist of moments when my students have helped out other students in their school. From helping prevent a fight to helping them with their homework; it truly is outstanding how helpful these deemed “bad” students can be. It shows me that with a little bit of guidance these students really can be outstanding citizens.

After we discuss the differing acts of leadership each of them has done that week, we move on to the topic of that week. Upon first starting my group, I used to have them play interactive games, but found that they enjoyed simply talking out their problems much better. It, also, proved to be much more effective. I give them a topic to discuss and they take it from there.  Last week’s topic was, “How can I prevent a negative situation from happening?” Each of my students came up with thoughtful and helpful ways to prevent differing situations. They, also, took it upon themselves to ask me for advice about differing situations they currently are facing and what to do.

The one thing I find most fascinating about my 50 Acts group, is how their school ideals and home ideals conflict at a very alarming rate. Though, they know what the right thing to do is, they find it difficult to extinguish certain situations because of things they have either learned or been told at home. When that is brought to my attention, I do my best to try to explain how acting one way at home might not be an okay way to act at school, “At home, your boss is your parents, at school your boss is your teacher, the principal or any other adult you come in contact with. At home you have to listen to your parents but at school you have to listen to what the adults at school ask you to do”.  Despite the fact that every week I have to remind my students of the above fact, it has proved to be beneficial. Though, some of my students are still reprimanded for certain bad choices, they have really begun to improve in the behavior department. I am truly proud of each and every one of my students progress.

50 Acts was created to help the students that most people have given up on, the students who have been deemed “lost causes”. However, every week I am shown how helpful, thoughtful, and caring each one of my students can be.  By just taking the time to listen to each and every one of them, we are truly making an impact of mass proportions in their lives. We are giving them something that they are not used to; we are giving them a chance to succeed.

Giving Blood: If I Can Do It, So Can You


By Jack Wolfe

This Friday, December 2nd, from 9 to 3, City Year Columbus will be hosting a Blood Drive on the 8th floor of the KeyBank building.

I know what you’re thinking.  “Jeez… another one of these.”  I know I’ve seen two Blood Drives around town in the last week, including a massive one at OSU prior to the Michigan game.  Seems like people are always begging you for blood, right?

Well, there’s a reason for all the demands, and that’s the tremendous need.  It’s estimated that every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood.  This means that over 38,000 blood donations are needed EVERY DAY to keep our country healthy.  Norma Wasserstrom, the Red Cross representative who is helping me run City Year’s Drive, gave me a map of the 27-county Central Ohio region she serves (which includes Franklin County).  She told me that the region needs 800 donations a day to sustain itself.

It sounds like a lot.  It is a lot.  But honestly, it’s not hard to give blood.  The Red Cross sets up Drives everywhere.  The donation process is simple, and usually takes less than an hour altogether.  And the service itself is about the most rewarding you can offer your community.

To give you an idea of just how simple and how rewarding donating is, I invite you to take a
look at me.  I am a very skinny vegetarian wimp.  I am not a fan of needles, or of blood (the look of it, anyway).  Yet I have donated three times in the past fifteen months.

Let me tell you about the last time (sometime in October).  I was a little nervous that my iron count wasn’t going to be high enough*, as I no longer eat meat.  I was also a little nervous about getting my finger pricked.  I persisted because:

  1. Two first year Corps Members were in the same room as me and I didn’t want look
    like a big wuss.
  2. I remembered that my one pint of blood could save up to three lives.

So I went through all the tests and stuff and finally got hooked up to the apparatus.  I got lightheaded pretty early on, so the Red Cross people laid me flat.  From that point on, I was pumping like crazy.  The rest of the process took just a couple of minutes.  I had a nice chat with a nurse about the new Batman video game, and was surprised with some tasty animal crackers.  (Those who participate in this Friday’s Drive will receive a T-Shirt as well.)

Afterward, with my big red bandage wrapped around my right arm, I felt like a hero, for I knew I had just done some powerful service.  Which, of course, is the whole idea of City Year.

Basically, if I can donate blood, you probably can too.  Please e-mail me at jwolfe11@cityyear.org if you wish to donate this Friday.  Thanks.

P.S.: If you want more mindblowing statistics about blood, as well as the need for it, you should go to www.redcrossblood.org.

If you want video evidence of how far your donation can go, you should watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5PAy6y4yfw

*Before you give blood, be sure to get a good night’s sleep, eat a good breakfast, and drink plenty of fluids.  Those of you who are concerned about iron should consume cereals fortified with iron (most cereals, honestly… and drink orange juice to increase absorption), cooked dried beans, peas, or lentils, dried fruits, enriched or whole grain breads, rolls, rice, cornmeal and pasta, and meat products.  DO NOT drink hot or cold tea, which decreases iron by approximately 50 percent.  (Coffee is no good either, according to a woman I talked to at Starbucks today.)

The Roots


By: Jackie Gibbs

Red jackets flared left and right with all of the hustle and bustle of the corps as we excitedly prepared the Hamilton Elementary Gym for Parents, Friends, and Family Night (PFF). Anticipation had built up inside of me as I waited almost impatiently for my family to arrive. Naturally, I got “the call” from my mom saying that they were going to be running late, however, my anxiety was regenerated with joy as soon as my mom and “the babies” (my siblings) came pouring through the doors and into my arms.

Since becoming apart of City Year, I’ve been immersed in my new devotion of serving along with the responsibilities of living everyday life and I haven’t been able to really share with my family what exactly it is that I’m doing with City Year. Because I dedicated my red bomber to my family, it was both important and meaningful for me to educate them on the service I am doing by having them present. PFF night gave me the opportunity to “show and tell” my new fidelity.

We opened with unity rally and for my family, as well as the other families, I’m sure in all, the uniform, the chants, and the ray of energy was quite an eye opener to a “new culture”. I remember looking into the crowd at my family, gesturing them to join in, and laughing at the awkward faces they gave me in return, because that’s exactly how I must have looked when I saw City Year demonstrate unity rally for the first time. Though strange as it may be, it shows the unity between us.

Having always had an interest in art, there were always crafts around the house while I was growing up. During college I achieved an art minor in which I explored various techniques of art such as sculpturing, drawing, painting, and ceramics. Since I began serving with City Year, I’ve assisted with painting murals and facilitating craft activities during after school. I was thrilled to be a part of designing the programs for PFF night and felt accomplishment in having the ability to share things I love to do, that I’ve learned in home and in school, with City Year. Having my family recognize this was even more rewarding.

It begins in the home, develops in school, and continues with City Year: The idea that the things each individual learns at home and in school contribute to our individuality as well as our development and desire to give back to the community.

And it’s true. Growing and learning as a child I saw numerous ways that others in our community helped my family in times of need. Whether it was lending my mom a hand with us kids, providing us with grocery gift cards, or helping out with the gifts around Christmas time, it was the generosity of the people in our community that made a better childhood experience possible. Those who helped my family out during my childhood founded the stepping-stones of community in my life, which I gladly continue to build by choosing to give a year with City Year.

City Year, a parent’s perspective


In light of City Year Columbus’s Parents Friends and Family Weekend, this article is written About City Year from a parent’s perspective. Jeff and Judi are parents of City Year Cleveland Alum, Kate League, and current City Year Columbus Senior Corps Member, Jeff League.

When our son Jeff asked us to write about City Year from a parent’s point of view, we thought back to the year 2006.  It was then that our daughter, Kate, told us that she wanted to join City Year Cleveland.  Once we learned what the program was about, we realized it would be a perfect fit for Kate. Newly graduated from Baldwin-Wallace College and fresh from suburbia, Kate has always had a wide streak of altruism.

So when Jeff told us that he wanted to be a part of City Year Columbus after graduating from Ohio State, we were very pleased and proud. Jeff, too, has a strong social conscience and enjoys service work. As with his sister, we knew City Year would be a good place for him.

As parents, you try to instill a sense of values in your children as they grow up.  City Year has done nothing but reinforce these values in our kids.  There are many lessons to be learned during a year of service……here are a few:

There is more to life and to personal satisfaction than graduating, getting a well-paying job and making a great deal of money. City Year is all about hard work. There is physical labor like building a playground in Columbus or building houses in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  There is also a great deal of mental and emotional work.  Kate and Jeff worked in schools in the inner-city with students who needed some extra help.  While this proved challenging to both of them, the intrinsic rewards they felt seeing their students achieve success were much more than they anticipated.

A very positive result of their experience with City Year was their exposure to cultural diversity, something that you don’t always find in the suburbs. It gave them a wider perspective and an appreciation for all cultures. Their lives have been immeasurably enriched by, not only the other corps members, but also the children and school personnel with whom they have worked.

Our children grew in many positive ways because of their City Year experience.  Learning to budget time and managing money were two skills they acquired that will benefit them their whole life.  Working a long City Year day included tutoring students, supervising recess, after school programs and field trips and helped prepare them for life after City Year.

While attending City Year functions, we often heard corps members say they wanted to give back.  City Year provides many opportunities to do this.  Our kids have learned that one person can make a difference.   We are grateful for the experiences that City Year has afforded them and are very proud of our kids.