By Phillip Emeritz
“Hey! It’s you! You’re here! That’s great!” was just one of many greetings City Year corps members cheered for students arriving for Summer Leadership Academy (SLA) last week. The excitement was an example of one of the ways corps members have been empowering America’s youth for twenty-five years: getting students excited and ready to learn. This week, we begin training and professional development with the staff at our schools, all to get ready to meet our students on the first day of school next Monday.
Nearly 100 students from DC public schools attended Summer Leadership Academy, a week-long program which included a variety of classroom lessons and team-building exercises, during their final days of summer. The week centered around global cultures, focusing on a different continent each day. From understanding haiku and personification to studying martial arts, painting Kente cloths to practicing Incan brain surgery (on balloons), participants of SLA experienced a wide range of cultural and academic material.
Although this program offered an excellent learning opportunity for students, it was also highly important for the City Year corps members. SLA provided the perfect trial run for what will assuredly be an exciting, challenging year. Corps members have spent several weeks training in the skills needed to work in the school system helping students to improve their performance, but experience is the greatest teacher. Lesson plans were run by senior corps members while first-year corps members facilitated student engagement, oversaw classroom transitions, organized lunchtime discussions and activities to teach students about personal leadership, and developed relationships with the diverse group of boys and girls. City Year teams were able to put different strategies to the test and discover their own strengths and weaknesses within the school setting. Summer Leadership Academy was the perfect capstone to City Year corps member training and the experience has only made these positive can-do volunteers that much more excited to demonstrate their spirit, discipline, purpose and pride.