Star of the Month Interviews

By: Melissa Santiago

Every month at Weinland Park Elementary School, City Year gives out the “Star of the Month” award to students who demonstrate spirit, discipline, purpose, and pride. The students are considered role models to their peers and honored in the school with their picture on a poster that hangs where everyone can see it. The students are also interviewed like celebrities and given a prize when they’re commended during part of a schoolwide assembly. The award is a well respected honor that students strive to achieve and are pleased to obtain. The winners for the month of October are Jennifer Wilson (3rd grade) and Guillermo Gonzalez (1st grade). Their interviews are given below.
3rd grade winner: Jennifer Wilson
What is your favorite color? Pink (and sometimes purple)
Favorite food? Fried chicken
Favorite memory? One time I went to Dairy Queen and ate my ice cream so fast I got brain freeze and couldn’t move.
What do you want to be when you grow up? A 5th grade teacher
Is there anyone you want to give a special thanks to for your education? My City Year, Ms. Melissa for helping me every morning and every afternoon with my schoolwork
What does it mean to you to be a Star of the Month? I’m excited and my friends are jealous because they want a prize and their picture to be on a poster in the school. I told them if they act like me, maybe next month they’ll win.
What did you do to be a Star of the Month this month? I’m respectful to my teacher, I always work hard, and I get along with everyone in my class. One time two of my classmates were arguing and I helped them calm down and don’t them it wasn’t a big deal so they’re still friends now and they hugged and made up.
1st grade winner: Guillermo Gonzalez
What is your favorite color? Firetruck Red
Favorite food? Chicken
Favorite memory? Looking at the stars
What do you want to be when you grow up? Dentist
Is there anyone you want to give a special thanks to for your education? My teacher Mr. Carrington!
What does it mean to you to be a Star of the Month? It’s cool. I have my put up in the school!
What did you do to be a Star of the Month this month? I don’t talk when I’m not supposed to, I’m quiet in line, I always do my work, and I help my classmates. I also jump rope at recess everyday

Blog: Welcome to the Jungle: The Truth Behind Recess Duty, Hamilton Edition

    By: Christine Olding

When I left the playground at Ida Weller Elementary in 2000, I never thought I’d step foot again on a playground. Being the youngest child in  family of three, I never had the joy of playing with younger siblings or going back to my old schools to greet them. When I left that school that hot June day, I never thought I’d see another recess time. I could not have been more wrong.

 When getting the news that I’d be at Hamilton STEM Academy,  I was overjoyed with the prospect of re-living my jungle gym days. What I did not realize, was things would be drastically different, yet somehow the same.

Within days of my recess duty, I had been climbed, jumped on, and grabbed more times than I can count. With countless questions of “Can I have your hair?” to “Will you give me a piggy back ride?” I was beginning to wonder what exactly I had gotten myself into.  At the age of twenty-two, I was already finding myself uttering things such as, “I am way too old for this.” It wasn’t until the second full week of recess duty, that I realized what I had gotten myself into.  By that point, the students began to recognize me and look for me during their twenty minutes of play time.  Granted, some days are more challenging than others, I have to say,  knowing that those students smile when they see me stomping up to the jungle gym in my all too familiar khaki and white, truly makes my day.  In my short time there, I have been a princess, a protector from the evil vampire queen, an enemy and a friend. I have taken magical journeys to Strawberry Shortcake’s Ball and been a referee for the most intense races since the 2008 Olympics.  I have witnessed tears shed and laughter shared. I have broken up countless fights and given even more high fives filled with encouragement. While looking back on my days at good ol’ Weller, I never realized how much it meant to me to see the same teachers and mentors during recess. It wasn’t until this experience that I truly thought back to the adults that guided me through those times. Though, my recess time now is far different from my recess time in my adolescent years,  I still find myself indulging in the same creative and innocent, cleverly thought out games and experiences.

Sometimes life drops down in a spot you’d never thought you’d revisit. Even though, at first,  it may seem challenging and you may feel like you can’t do it again, you must realize that there is a reason you are there.  There is a reason that your presence is needed to relive those moments of your past.  Take each of those moments and live them to their fullest potential.  
Each day I lace up my Timberlands , I picture little eight year old Christine strapping on her light up shoes, and I remember why I was dropped back down to revisit my jungle gym days.


By: Melissa Santiago

 Week 1 in schools: check.  I’m officially in love with Weinland Park Elementary and its entire student body.  From the clingy kindergarteners to the attitude-infused fifth graders, every day I walk through the halls I become more attached. My absolute favorite part of each day though is clearly recess. You might think it’s because I get a break from the frustrations of tutoring or because it’s just plain fun, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

BOOP. That’s the sound of the recess bell in case you were wondering.   If you didn’t recognize it, that’s probably because you’re about my age or older and when you were in school the bell was an actual bell that rang and not an electronic beeping noise over an intercom…but anyway, I digress. This week I went to recess 19 times (yes, 19 times) and these are some of my observations.

Recess is a time for crying…because you got stung by a bee, because your best friend was talking about you behind your back, because you fell off the monkey bars, or because you have to sit on the wall and watch everybody else play in recess since you didn’t turn in your math homework…again.

Recess is for bending rules…because how can you say no to a first grader who’s begging you to throw them the ball but doesn’t have a corner in four square?

Recess is for laughing…because Miss Patrice leads “get loose”, a famous City Year icebreaker, to save a City Year from a tickle attack, because you’re the victim of that tickle attack, or because you’re the one doing the tickling…

Looking at the basketball courts will tell you that it’s the boys’ territory, unless you reveal to them you went to college with Michael Jordan (and conveniently left out the 30 year time gap).

The monkey bars are for literally and figuratively being lifted up by friends. And for hanging upside down by tiny legs and having conversations, defying some gravitational laws and never falling down.  Lets not forget making new friends, especially ones who speak your first language, and especially when less than a handful of other students in the entire school speak that language or share your culture.

Recess’s grassy field is for doing backflips or arguing with 6 year olds over whether or not girls should be allowed to play in the NFL.  It’s for using kickball to unite the entire class of fifth graders who were calling each other names one minute and cheering for each other the next.  It is also for seeing a different side of people- the student who led a revolt against the substitute teacher in reading this morning now leads his classmates in a strategic kickball play.

As soon as recess starts I have at least 10 little arms pulling me in different directions, several different voices vying for my attention on all parts of the playground.  I’ve realized that no matter how much I complain to my team about how exhausting it is to do recess thrice in a day, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  19 recesses has shown me that my impact on the students outside of the classroom is just as important as how I impact them inside the classroom.   What happens at recess doesn’t stay at recess, but reveals more about a kid than an entire day in the classroom with him or her.  I can honestly say I’m looking forward to the hundreds more recess bells I’ll hear this year and getting to know every student through the events that follow each bell.

Shoe Me

By: Christine Olding

Upon starting City Year, I was unsure exactly how I would adapt to wearing khakis, Timberlands, a City Year polo or button down and a black belt. However, once I put on that uniform, something within me felt different. It may sound trite and cliché, but it is the truth. To better explain exactly my feelings, I feel it is only fair to allow someone else explain it, someone who could explain it better than me, my Timberlands.

The freshly cut grass sticks to me as I walk down the rough sidewalks. The sounds of buses and cars can be heard as I make my way to my final destination. I shuffle along and finally enter the door way, Hamilton STEM Academy is my new home. I briskly pace through the halls and the loud voices of children can be heard from all directions.  I make my way back outside and see my friend, Steve’s Timberlands neatly laced on the same ground as me. We chat for a bit about how excited each of us is to finally be there. The first group of kids can be seen off in the distance.  Now is my time to shine, I thought.  A group of rowdy children approached me, a few angry, a few smiling, each with something to bring to the school.  Hugs could be felt as they saw the familiarity that lied within my brown leather casing.  To be honest, I was worried how well I’d fit in here, but upon hearing, “City Year is back!” I knew I would be just fine.  My day flew by me. Filled with questions of past Corps Members and why I looked like a man,” Why are you wearing man boots?”, allowed my owner and I to get a better feel for what exactly was ahead for us this year.  I learned a lot that first day.  How quickly people can become attached and how needed I truly was in this school.  After day two,  I was worn and torn with clear scuff marks covering the majority of my body.  I had already accumulated dozens of stories from what children had told us and what they had said,  some were funny and some were sad. I learned a few valuable lessons too,  for instance, hula hoops are never a good idea at recess. Who would’ve thought they could be so dangerous? I also learned to stay on the purple line and to be silent in the halls. We packed up our bag and headed out the doors for the weekend. Our first week was complete. Though I may look out of place and I sure do weigh a lot, I am a staple in the lives of the children that roam these halls.

I hope that my Timberland’s conveyed the life we lead for the past week. Though, I was hesitant at first when I put on those iconic brown boots, I now know that without them, City Year and I would not be the same.