This year’s Spring Break event was our biggest yet. Our annual fundraiser brought out A-list celebrities like Josh Brolin and Jennifer Garner, as well as industry insiders and their teens and tweens, all in support of education in Los Angeles. The event, hosted by Octavia Spencer, featured a special performance by Charlie Puth, as well as food, games and interactive booths sponsored by top brands including Aramark, Comcast NBCUniversal, E!, Hulu, JP Morgan Chase/Atom Tickets, Karma Tequila, MarVista, PEOPLE, RealD, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox, Univision, Walmart and Westfield among others.
The event also featured an impassioned presentation by City Year AmeriCorps member who shared stories about their students. Tragically, one of the students that was to be celebrated at Spring Break, 15-year old Hannah Bell, lost her life to gun violence the night before the event. Hannah was a beautiful student who has worked with City Year AmeriCorps members for two years. Her most recent AmeriCorps mentor - Eileen Barker - shared her story at Spring Break in honor of Hannah. Below you can read our AmeriCorps member's "Starfish Stories," also known as stories of impact, including Hannah’s.
Vera R. Campbell Foundation team at Hollenbeck Middle School in Boyle Heights
I serve for communities whose voices are drowned out by circumstance. In addition to academic support, City Year service asks us to dig deeper and lead with empathy, since grades alone rarely reflect the weight of circumstantial hardships. Fatima began the year as a shy 12-year-old whose empty gaze telegraphed quiet disdain for her 8 a.m. math class. Her somber expression told the story of a girl whose worry extended outside the classroom. At least two days a week I sat with Fatima during first period. I committed myself to making Fatima smile—to showing her that hardened resilience could be softened with optimism and joy. Being a role model requires an open heart. Understanding her resistance to schoolwork, I convinced Fatima to teach me her favorite game – Mancala. As we played, Fatima became my mentor, teaching me about her life in Boyle Heights, which wasn’t always easy or fair. I gave her my undivided attention to show her that she matters.
Yesterday in our 8 a.m. math class, Fatima took it upon herself to help other students who were struggling. She looked at me with a smile and proudly stated, "Maybe I can be a teacher someday." After months, that shy, disengaged 12-year-old, burdened by the world in which she was born, is now a leader in the classroom, ready to share her optimism and make better happen. Fatima is my starfish.
Senior AmeriCorps member,
Rosenthal Family Foundation team at Santee Education Complex in South L.A.
I serve to empower our youth who were never given a chance because of the color of their skin, gender or zip code. I have a student named Hannah. No one in Hannah’s family has ever graduated high school, and she’d resigned herself to the same fate. Her first words to me were, "Miss, don't even bother. I'm not doing the work. I don't like school." Even though Hannah didn’t want my help, I persisted. I chipped away at the wall she had built. We started out slow, eventually easing into a foundation of trust. Being a tutor requires consistency. Every day, I’ve shown up for Hannah to change her, "I can't, miss" to "I can do anything.” Hannah knows that every day she goes to class, I will be there to motivate her and to remind her how amazing she truly is. Hannah has improved two letter grades in English class. I always believed she could and for the first time, she is starting to believe it too. Hannah is my starfish.
Second Year AmeriCorps member and District Teaching Intern,
L.A. Clippers team at 107th Street Elementary in Watts
As a future teacher, I serve so that my students can use education to navigate through systems that may not be set up for them to thrive. Math is Maxim's least favorite subject. Whenever I pulled out a worksheet, she’d put her head down until it was time to go home. Her self-doubt and anxiety were palpable, debilitating and so much for a 3rd grader to process. For months, I demanded excellence from Maxim and she rose to the occasion. Every day we met after school, where despite her aversion to math, she powered through because she knew what I expected from her. Being a mentor requires dedication. After 200 hours of tutoring, I finally noticed a change in Maxim. She began asking me for help, volunteering to help her peers with math homework, and using the multiplication cards I made for her. Last week, Maxim passed her 3s timetable test. And you know what she said to me yesterday, "Ms. Mia, are you ready for me to pass my 4s today?" It makes me so proud to see her setting her own goals and motivated to accomplish them. Maxim is my starfish.
You can watch Lelan, Eileen, and Mia's special presentation at Spring Break here.
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Click here to view photos from the event.