Real Talk With Miss Christine


By: Christine Olding

A few weeks ago I started doing this lunch group on Thursdays with six, 6th grade girls. It was supposed to be a chance for them to talk about a variety of topics that they didn’t feel comfortable talking about with anyone else (health issues to boyfriends and everything in between). I was unsure exactly how it would go over because let’s just say I was not the favorite person among the 6th grade girls.

When I first started this experience I was known by many of the students as the “mean” one due to my strict disciplinarian structure. However, in the past few months I have begun to develop relationships with these girls in ways I, honestly, never thought imaginable. I get hugs and jokes on a daily basis and am constantly asked questions about my love life (something I find pretty hysterical). So, when I was asked to do this group, I was excited and nervous on what exactly would happen given our rocky road.

The group is set up like this: they go grab their lunch and come to a classroom where I am awaiting their arrival. During our first meeting we came up with 10 topics that would be discussed. Each week we talk about a different topic. I present the topic of the week and open the floor each time stating that it is a safe space and whatever is said between these walls will never leave these walls. I try to answer their questions to the best of my ability and hope for the best.

I was amazed by the girls willingness to share and ask questions that I knew were hard for them to discuss. They are 100% open to what I have to say and what each other have to say. It is my chance to show them a different perspective on the issues that plague them. It is my chance to say” hey, I remember being in the 6th grade and I remember how much it sucked at times. So, here are some things to help you get through it.” Each week, I make a point to let them know that each of them is important, beautiful, smart and loved. (Something I know that they rarely hear). It is my hope that they will truly listen to those words and believe them because all I want for them is to believe in themselves and each other, like how I believe in each one of them.

AmeriCorps Spotlight, Children’s Hunger Alliance


By Christine Olding

In honor of AmeriCorps week, I decided to fill everyone in on an AmeriCorps program that not only helps our organization but helps thousands of people in the state of Ohio on a daily basis. That organization being, Children’s Hunger Alliance ( CHA); a non-profit organization that works with youth services, after-school programs , childcare facilities and faith-based organizations to provide healthy meals to children in need.

At Hamilton STEM Academy we work with CHA on a daily basis. They provide meals for our after-school programs. The meals are delivered to us each day before our programs start. They always contain a fruit or vegetable, grain, meat and dairy product to ensure that our students get their daily dosage of the food pyramid. In order for an organization to obtain and keep the free meals that they receive they must follow several very important rules. The organization requesting the free meals must go to a training session that gives that organization all of the information necessary to run their meal program successfully. The organization must give the names, birthdates, genders, and allergies of all participating children to CHA. They must make sure that all of the eating areas are clean and every child receives each part of their meal. An organization must have a copy of their menu on display during their after-school program at all times. They do check-ins three times a year to make sure that your program is following the rules set out by CHA.

Children’s Hunger Alliance began in 1970 and now serves every single county in Ohio. Not only do they provide free meals to thousands of Ohio children, they also provide education on healthy eating habits and physical activity. They have several AmeriCorps members that provide that information to the parents and children that they serve.  Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities is an AmeriCorps program run through CHA that provides full-time support in Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Akron, and Cincinnati. They spend roughly half of their time providing education concerning the topics of healthy choices and physical activity and the other half on providing insight to expand the capacity of Children’s Hunger Alliance.

Despite the fact that I am serving as a City Year volunteer it is a necessity for myself and others to realize that we cannot do it alone. Rarely can any AmeriCorps program reach their goals and expectations on its own. It needs the help from the surrounding communities, citizens and businesses alike. In our case, we have the ability to work hand-in-hand with another AmeriCorps funded program that allows each of us to help reach our goals, expectations and children that we serve.

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.

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.

Fifty Acts on Kindness


By: Christine Olding

Something is to be said about the behavior issues that we each face at our differing schools. We all face trying situations and difficult conflicts to resolve.  It is obvious that one child can hinder the learning of twenty- four others which means behavior is something that needs to be tended to.  At Hamilton, we are going to implement a behavior initiative, 50 Acts of Kindness, something that will hopefully make the problem the solution.

The initiative is designed for us to work with the students who have the most behavioral issues on record.  We are going to meet with them once a week during lunch to discuss how to deal with their emotions in a healthy manner and most importantly, to teach them what it takes to be a leader. Between the seven of us, we are going to tackle 3rd-6th grade. We each are going to be working with our respective grades, for instance, I will be working with 4th grade since that is the grade I provide whole class and small group tutoring for.  My team is currently deciding which students we will be working with, something that is a lot harder than I originally thought. A lot of these students have a wide range of behavioral issues that need to be addressed.

How exactly are we going to do this?

The answer is simple.   Our small groups, consisting of four to six children, will be taken out during their lunch period. We are going to have them eat lunch with us and do short lesson plans about the differing topics.  First, however, a strict, yet reasonable, set of rules must be implemented so that each child knows the consequences of acting out during this precious time period.  Secondly, we must try to figure out how to best implement each lesson to fit the specific group of students we are going to be working with.  Since we are only going to have roughly twenty minutes, this aspect is of the utmost importance.

What will a typical session look like?

Ideally, it would go something like this. The students will walk in during their lunch where we will be waiting for them. They would eat their lunch in a timely and quiet fashion and after they are finished eating, a fun, yet informational lesson plan will take place.  For instance, if that day we are discussing the characteristics of a leader, a game of leadership charades could be played where each child acts out a differing quality that is possessed by a leader.  After the game, a small discussion would be held to talk about why those qualities are necessary. Though, this is a very important and serious issue, we still want to make sure the students have fun and enjoy what they are learning.

City Year is trying to give these students a chance to make a difference, to change not only themselves, but also their school.  My team is very excited and eager to begin this process in the hopes of making the problem the solution.  Throughout the year, I will keep the readers updated on the progress of this behavioral initiative. So, make sure to look for it in the upcoming months!