Today’s guest blogger is Marcus Thomas, AmeriCorps member serving on the Credit Suisse Team at PS/MS 57 in East Harlem.

I serve in East Harlem, a community that faces many social issues such as a high joblessness rate, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, and increasing homelessness amongst citizens. This neighborhood has the second highest concentration of public housing in the United States, and the highest violent crime rate in Manhattan.

Knowing these challenges, my teammates and I work really hard to make our school a place where students can feel safe to express themselves. One of our goals we set for ourselves was to offer opportunities for students and members of the community to showcase their talents and hone new skills. 

To help reach that goal, we created an extracurricular club that is molding the mindsets of young students in a positive way. The Legacy Step Team created by my Team Leader, Joey Diaz, is a positive alternative for students if they are not into sports or academic extracurricular activities. The Legacy Step Team was created to promote academic achievement, unity, and leadership within a diverse team of individuals, as well as to encourage self-respect and discipline. It was organized for students to become actively involved in a team environment with leadership opportunities. Students not only learn how to step, but learn how to display dedication, discipline, balance, and teamwork qualities that translate into the classroom.

Before joining the Legacy Step Team, the members must adhere to and sign a contract stating; 
1) If you are not in good academic standing you cannot participate in group performances.
2) You cannot step in class or in the hallway.
3) Being on this team is a privilege that you must earn. Academics come first always!
4) One Team. One Sound! We are only as strong as our weakest link.
5) We must at all times respect Mr. Joey and Mr. Marcus.

We were worried that some students would struggle with meeting their end of the contract, but that has not been the case. As I was writing this post I wanted to know how my students thought joining the club has helped them in the classroom? We were happy to hear that one student responded, “It helps me too make more friends, work on my teamwork, and be more outgoing to everybody!”

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