By Blake Benton, corps member serving at Beech Street Elementary School
City Year New Hampshire provides a multitude of opportunities for its Corps Members to serve beyond the classroom. One of these incredible opportunities is Bring It!, an afterschool program for middle and high school students from the city of Manchester. The mission statement of Bring It! is “To provide safe, healthy, and educational out of school opportunities for students and families in Manchester, while helping them become more invested in the schools, systems, and community around them.” This year, Corps Members serve with Bring It! on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, and help students there with homework, play soccer, dance, participate in drum circles, and assist students on a computer program called Reading Plus.
During my most recent evening serving with Bring It, I was fortunate enough to experience many of the activities that are offered through this exciting program. My fellow Corps Members and I started our night by joining the students who were participating in the Hip-Hop and R&B dance class. Needless to say, we quickly learned that the talent of these students and their dance instructors was far superior to our own. Rather than subjecting ourselves to further humiliation, and as not to take up space that the students could be using, we decided that we could be of better assistance by standing and cheering from the sidelines. We ventured on to catch the tail end of the African drum circle. Thankfully, there were just enough drums left for us to participate in the final exercise. During this portion of the night, the instructor of the circle played a very moving yet up-beat song that involved several dozen words for peace from across the globe. To close the drum circle, all in attendance were asked to say one of the words for peace that had been featured in the closing song.
For the remainder of the evening, my fellow Corps Members and I participated in homework help and Reading Plus. Felicia Truman and I helped a high school student who was working through a challenging Biology packet relating to cellular reproduction and mitosis. The content was rather difficult, even for someone who has taken college Biology courses. However, Felicia masterfully worked with the student, to help guide her through the remainder of the assignment. Felicia did so by incorporating many of the comprehension strategies that the staff and senior corps of City Year New Hampshire have trained first year corps members in. I could tell that Felicia had been paying diligent attention to all of the literacy trainings, as she was able to masterfully use the skills and techniques to help out this particular high school student.
I next had the pleasure of watching another fellow Corps Member, Erika Swiger, instruct a high school student on how to best utilize Reading Plus, an online program that assists readers as they develop their fluency, vocabulary, and overall comprehension. This program required additional preparation out-side of our regular hours, and it was evident that Erika had put in a great deal of time and effort with this training, as she was able to patiently and excellently guide the student through the program. All in all, the experience serving with Bring It! is always inspiring and enjoyable. It is a pleasure and a joy to interact with high school students as they participate and experience music and dance, and it is a thrill to witness first hand as fellow Corps Members work one-on-one with students.