Drive and Determination Have No Age Limit

By Shay Barchue 
Shay Barchue is a 2012-2013 corps member serving on the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care team at the Holland Elementary School in Dorchester.

basketballMy favorite part of the day is our Starfish extended day program. I find myself amazed at the depth of the students’ questions and comments. At times it even feels like I am talking to my peers. After reflecting on the conversations, I chuckle and think to myself “I can’t believe I was just talking to 10-year-old student.”

One of my favorite conversations was with a fourth grader. Derek* loves to talk to me about basketball. As a true Bostonian, his favorite NBA team is the Boston Celtics, and he really looks up to Rajon Rondo. I am extremely impressed by how knowledgeable Derek is about the history of basketball. Every time we talk about the sport, I feel like I am talking to an analyst. I can appreciate his views and opinions because it shows me how passionate he is about the subject. Furthermore, it has been the foundation to help build our relationship.

One day he came up to me in after school and said, “Ms. Shay, I heard you played a sport in college.  Can you tell what I need to do to be able to play basketball in college when I get older?”  I was excited because this question shows he is dedicated and planning his future. The joy of being able to connect with a student, and pass on knowledge about my experience as a college athlete reassures me that I planted a seed of motivation.

I used this opportunity to talk to Derek about the importance of coming to school every day, and the impact that and education and good grades will have on his college athletic career. As the year continues to progress, I watch Derek become more attentive to his homework in our afterschool program. I think it is safe to say that Derek has the drive to achieve his dreams.

*STUDENT’S NAME CHANGED TO PROTECT PRIVACY.

Wordless Wednesday: Bowling with the Celtics

By Josh Fidalgo
Josh Fidalgo is a 2012-2013 corps member serving on the CSX team at the Dearborn Middle School in Roxbury.

WW_Step Your Game Up

The Boston Celtics presented Boston Public Schools students with a unique challenge: Step Your Game Up. Students who showed significant improvement in their grades and attendance were eligible for prizes, such as attending a home game at TD Garden, or attending a special bowling party. Nine students earned the privilege to bowl with the Celtics’ Jason Terry, Jarred Sullinger, Chris Wilcox, Terrence Williams, and Shavlik Randolph.

Harbor Students Challenged By The Celtics

By Nowmee Shehab
Nowmee Shehab is a 2012-2013 corps member serving on the Summit Partners team at the Harbor Pilot Middle School in Dorchester.

Posters hanging in the school remind students about the challenge.

Posters hanging in the school remind students about the challenge.

What do a championship winning NBA team and an education non-profit have in common? They both have a vested interest in the success of Boston Public School students; City Year Boston and the Boston Celtics are working to keep BPS students in school and on track to graduate. The Step Your Game Up initiative is designed to target two early warning indicators that a student is at risk for dropping out of school.

The initiative will focus on students who are failing one of more of their core classes and on students who have less than 90 percent attendance. Corps members and teachers of the 12 participating schools will give out tickets to students who improve their attendance and grades. Another way Harbor students will be able to earn tickets is by following the school’s three principles: respect, effort and responsibility. Corps members will thoroughly track students’ performance through cycles in which they will earn these tickets. These tickets will be raffled for Celtics games tickets, events with Celtics players and NBA gear.

The Celtics hope to engage students in their academics as well as instill positive habits that will help them succeed.

The program was a success last year with nearly 69 percent of students who were receiving a “D” or lower in math or English Language Arts improving their grades to a “C-” or better. Additionally, 74 percent of the eligible students improved their attendance. Forty-eight percent of those students even rose above the 90 percent attendance goal!

Josh Cantor, the Team Leader of Summit Partners team serving at the Harbor thinks Step Your Game Up is a great initiative; a lot of the students look up to Celtics players. Cantor said, “What better impact can these players have on students than to encourage them to stay in school and improve their academics?”

The corps members are really excited about the program as well. We think that it will encourage a lot of students to truly excel. Esteban Kim, a corps member serving in the seventh grade noted that a majority of his students have never been to the TD Garden, home court to the Celtics. It would be really meaningful if they are rewarded for their hard work and perseverance with a trip to ‘The Garden’ and see the Celtics play in person.

Theresa Oberst, a corps member serving in the eighth grade said, “My students remember the program from last year and are very excited that it is starting again!” The whole school’s enthusiasm is noteworthy since increasing positive school culture is a mission of both City Year and the Celtics.

How City Year Boston Taught Me About the Celtics

When I woke up this morning, I pulled on my uniform, brushed my teeth, packed my bag and then over breakfast, I made sure to check the score of the Celtics game.

A confession: I never used to be a basketball fan. Raised a good Bostonian, I can belt out “Sweet Caroline” without hesitation and watched Super Bowl XXXVIII with my entire neighborhood, but the Celtics never made it into my repertoire. Until now.

City Year has made me infinitely more aware of the game that often dominates not only inner-city pop culture but also childhood recreation. I’ve learned about Celtics players from neighborhood kids, and I’ve learned NBA fandom from my own teammates. I learned the rules of the game from watching a valiant effort by our City Year Boston Team in Bromley-Heath’s Behind the Badge Tournament two weeks ago. I have even learned the physical anatomy of basketball from all the courts we’ve painted and refurbished – most of which were back in use within minutes of safe drying time or the twist of the last bolt on a shiny new rim.

Nowadays, opening the paper does far more than tell me the score; all too often it unleashes stories of tragedy that also resonate with new meaning. Many of them are stories of violence just blocks from where we have served – even on the court where Bromley-Heath’s tournament took place. I’ve read these stories before, but my connection to them runs far deeper now. And though it saddens me all the more, it also ignites in me a far greater sense of purpose.

Leading volunteers in painting basketball courts isn’t going to put an end to violence, but it brings joy to a community to know that someone cares. Learning players’ names and stats does not substitute academic knowledge, but maybe it helps a kid relate to the material and to us. There is, after all, a truth to the universal language of sport. And I’m grateful for the crash course this year – I am not only a better sports fan for it, but a better Bostonian as well.