Posted by: emilyrfarrell | July 9, 2011

Say Yes to Education – Week 1

This summer I managed to find a job that I really enjoy and educational. I was really excited when I heard about the Say Yes to Education organization but there was no way that I could have anticipated the awesomeness of this program. In the past three weeks I have attended a week of education classes, written a four week course on World Music for kindergarten students, and written 19 lesson plans. I’ve also had my first experience teaching in an inner city school. If you haven’t heard of the program, I hope I can shed some light on this great organization.

The Program

The mission of Say Yes To Education is to value and realize the promise and extraordinary potential of economically disadvantaged youth and families. Say Yes recognizes the daunting challenges faced by children living in poverty, and believes children can overcome these challenges when given significant, holistic support.

Say Yes is committed to providing this support to at-risk children and their families, enabling them to graduate from high school, accomplish post-secondary educational success, and achieve meaningful life goals, including giving back to their communities.

Say Yes to Education  is a national, non-profit education foundation that was created by George Weiss, president of a money management company that he founded, in 1987. What was originally just a promise to pay the college tuition of 112 students at Belmont Elementary in Philadelphia turned into a program that helps over 22,000 students in Philadelphia, New York, Syracuse, and Cambridge, and Hartford inner city schools. The program starts in kindergarten and sticks with the kids all through their high school career. During the school year students are provided with after school care and mentors to ensure that they are reaching their highest potential. In fact, in the Syracuse chapter, there is a Say Yes representative located year round in each elementary school. Syracuse is especially unique in the Say Yes program because it is the first to embrace the program throughout the entire school district, which makes it the largest school enrichment program of its kind. During the summer, Say Yes hires college students, from a wide variety of majors, to come in an teach summer enrichment courses in several different subjects including writing, fitness and health, and music. During the Say Yes Summer Camp students spend the mornings learning math and language arts from one of the teachers in the school and then transition into the enrichment classrooms taught by college students.

Say Yes Syracuse

Because I moved to the central New York area fairly recently and I spend most of the year at school, I really didn’t know much about the city of Syracuse when I took the job at Say Yes Syracuse. Especially the fact that it is an hour away from my house. But that’s not important. The city of Syracuse is a fascinating place filled with beautiful buildings and Dinosaur Barbeque, which I have been to and there is a reason it has been featured on the Food Network several times, just saying. But there is definitely a harder side of Syracuse. Inner city Syracuse has a lot of problems, the biggest of which is their schools. There graduation rate as of last year was 47T%. It is Say Yes Syracuse’s mission to change that. When the Mayor of Syracuse spoke at our opening day of training, she used the phrase <“no child left behind<” several times. Now usually when people say that it is associated with the national education plan, which for me has negative connotations. However, this program has figured out how to actually leave no child left behind. They provide resources for schools in trouble and work with the students on a personal level to help them out. I was placed at Franklin Elementary School which is located on the south side of Syracuse. The students are from many different backgrounds and 22T% of the student body are from refugee families. As you can probably guess, this leads to a little bit of a language barrier.  But through hugs and laughter, as cheesy as that sounds, the other youth enrichment specialists and I are able to communicate with the students and hopefully teach them something.

The First Week

Going into this week, I thought I was pretty prepared for what was coming. Unfortunately, learning about how to work with young inner city kids is completely different than actually working with them. Luckily, I do have a partner who is there to help me teach the class but sometimes we just can’t compete with 15 screaming kids who just don’t know how to stop talking. I actually was losing my voice from having to talk/half-yell over them. We went into the first week with all of these great plans for what we were going to teach the kids, but I don’t think we got to half of it. The class is very diverse, spanning from kids who never say a word to me to kids who are very affectionate. There was almost always someone holding my hand or trying to sit on my lap. Now, don’t get me wrong, they were adorable. But it is very stressful to be in a situation where you are supposed to be the teacher and have everything together and at the same time have no idea how to be in control. But I’m getting better. By the end of the week, kids almost stayed in line, listened to me 40T% of the time, and even knew what a whole note and half note were and how many beats they have. It was very exciting. But we’ve still got a long way to go. As an education student, I am very excited for the experience that this program is providing. And as a human being I am very, very excited for the help that is being provided to these kids.

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