Blog

KIDS ON COURSE

February 26, 2019

A Day in the Life of a KOC staff

A Day in the Life of a KOC staff

Cast of Characters:

Mr. Josh: Kids on Course Site Manager at Wilson Middle School.

Martin: A male student in the 7th grade.

Ashley: A female student in the 7th grade.

Sophia: A female student in the 7th grade.

Student Leader: A student with a group of students that follow.

Chris: 6th grade student.

 

Scene:

Various times throughout the school day at Wilson Middle School.

 

Time:

The present.

 

 

 


Act I, Scene I:

 

Setting:            It was a cold winter’s day and all through the school are children laughing and screaming, adults hustling and bustling and the occasional dog lying about wanting nothing but to stretch and fetch. Then, all of a sudden, the fire alarm goes off and the springs in our boots bounce us into action. The wind blowing harsh enough to make us shiver and quiver our whole bodies over. Kids confused, adults disappointed because we know why the alarm was set off. One bad decision. Just a normal day, unexpectedly normal.

 

At Rise:            Mr. Josh is starting his day. He pulls up and parks his car in front to the building and sees the students and staff outside. When it’s time to go back inside he takes off his jacket and whips it around his chair and throws his bookbag on the floor next to his desk. Hits the power button to his two laptops and in comes students needed space to work and talk.

 

Mr. Josh: (Sniffles nose) Kids, I know that it’s still early in the day but now that we are back inside, we need to get to work. What are you working on?

 

Martin: Math. I have to finish this worksheet.

 

Ashley: I’m working on my social studies packet

 

Mr. Josh: Great! Let’s have at it then. Whatever you don’t finish is homework. Take it home and actually work on it. I’ll be checking in with your teachers to see if it’s finished.

 

Martin and Ashley: Yeah, yeah, I know.

 

Sophia: Hey I finished all my work in class can I come in here and hangout.

 

Mr. Josh: Did you get permission from your teacher?

 

Sophia: Yep.

 

Mr. Josh: Then yes that fine. I have students in here working so you need to respect that they need quiet time to work.

 

(Bells ring)

 

End Scene.


Act I, Scene II:

 

Setting:            Bells ring and the kid’s wings take flight out the door. Lunch. Kids bursting throughout the halls screaming and yelling. Their favorite part of the day. 1,2,3,4 kids… feels like 20. It’s actually 25. 25 Kids eating in the Kids on Course room. Hardly enough chairs. It’s crowded. Chess games going on. Kids arguing about the rules of UNO. Does anybody really know the actual rules? Kids spilling ‘tea’.

 

At Rise:            Mr. Josh builds relationships with his students during lunch.

Mr. Josh: Remember when you’re done eating, you’ll stack your trays and two of you will volunteer to take the trays down to the lunch room.

 

Student Leader: (Speaking loud enough to quiet the room) Mr. Josh we need to talk we have tea.

 

Mr. Josh: I’m all ears! What problem are you having today?

 

Student Leader: (Students following with a snickering smile on their faces) Ok, so this boy said that he like me today and they all heard, and I just rolled my eyes because I though this was over. I told him I wasn’t interested. Why is this happening to me?

 

Mr. Josh: You’re free to feel how you feel but next time try not to roll your eyes and let him down softly. It takes a lot of courage to ask someone out and it would have been nice for you to recognize that.

 

Students Leader: Yeah but I don’t like him, and he know that why would he ask me out. Ugh that was just dumb.

 

Mr. Josh: You don’t have to like him just try and respect his feelings. You don’t have to feel the same way and feel free to share your point of view.

 

Student Leader: Ok.

 

(Bells ring)

 

End Scene.

 

Act I, Scene III:

 

Setting:            Kids are in and out of the Kids on Course room all afternoon working on classwork. Asking for help. Needing redirection to stay on task. Praising for getting their work done. The last bell rings and the kids sing. The end of the school day signifies an extension of learning and challenges for the students. Chess Club and After school tutoring begins.

 

At Rise:            Students from all grades partake in Chess Club and tutoring. Mostly 6th grade with some 7th and 8th sprinkled in. Making critical thinking something the kids seek and making learning as fun as possible. Growth.

 

Mr. Josh: (Gives instructions) Head inside the room and take a seat. Your day is going to look like this. First, snack will be ready in a moment. Then we’ll go outside for ‘brain break’ and give that head of yours a time out. Once ‘brain break’ is over, the chess club players will come back into my room and set up a board and start playing. Remember chess is a thinking game and silence and patience is encouraged. Slow your mind down. Like chess, life is much the same. For those that are in tutoring you will head to your classroom and you’re teacher will be waiting for you.

 

30 min pass

 

Mr. Josh: Let’s go kids! It’s time to head back inside! Grab the balls! Thank you!

 

10 min pass

 

Chris: I left my coat outside can I go back out and grab it?

 

Mr. Josh: No, I’ll go get it. I want you in class learning.

 

1 hour 30 minutes pass

 

Students are dismissed from Chess Club and Learning Lab. Chaos consumes the Kids on Course room with kids grabbing their bags and projects they were working on. Chess Club students picking up chess boards and chess pieces and helping tidy the room. Buses arrive at 5:00 pm. Time to get the kids calm before the we hop on the bus. It’s been a long day for them. Repeat.

 

 

 

February 18, 2019

Six Years of Recess

I love this job because each day is a new day. I’ve been with Kids on Course for about six years, first as an AmeriCorps Member and now as the Site Manager at Grant Elementary School. If you hang around me long enough you’ll learn I never really stopped being a kid, which makes me the envy of recess.

For those new to what Kids on Course is all about, allow me to provide a brief history. We have six core components that we focus on at the elementary level as we put Zach and Kim Johnson’s dream into reality:

 

Learning Lab – About 150 children at each of our three elementary schools now attend twice a week sessions for roughly 20 weeks in the school year. Each session consists of math, reading or enrichment activities. The original goal was to give students an opportunity to learn from playing games. This quickly grew into something much more. Parents, students, and teachers are realizing that a little extra support, and a lot of fun and games, can make a huge difference in academic outcomes.

 

Kids on Course University – In 2013 we invited about 60 students to be part of our inaugural KCU with a single goal to stop the Summer Slide. That’s when kids lose some of what they learned the previous school year because they don’t have access to experiences that challenge them and keep their minds engaged. What we found was that most students not only stopped that Slide, but came back to school in August more prepared for the school year than when they left!

In 2016 the Cedar Rapids School District partnered with us to expand this summer program to serve more than 750 kids. This huge expansion was only possible thanks to generous private donors at the 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant from the state of Iowa.

 

Enrichment – Zach Johnson played lots of sports, and even a few musical instruments, when he was growing up in Cedar Rapids. But many students cannot participate in sports or activities unless the school provides them. This is where ZJ and his team step in. We incorporate enrichment into our Learning Lab program and also provide scholarships for kids who are ready for a community-based extra-curricular opportunity. These students have to earn what we call Bid for Kids scholarships by being devoted to Kids on Course, school attendance and complete an application. We have helped more than 100 students be part of CRSA, Jr. J-Hawk basketball, Expressions Dance Studio, vocal lessons, and many more!

The Bid for Kids scholarship has made a big impact on one child I get to work with. She is a 3rd grader who is taking Gymnastics lessons at a local gym. She just started this year, but has put so much time and effort into becoming her best that she was elevated from beginner to a traveling team after her first couple of months training. She just recently went to an out of state tournament and won her first medal! Her radiant smile when she returned to school was something I will never forget.

 

Home Visits – Home Visits are our chance to meet the amazing family behind our incredible students. The purpose of a home visit is simple: meet each other! We get to meet the guardians and siblings while learning a little more about the student. It is also a chance for the family to get to know the KOC crew and ask whatever questions are on their mind.

A home visit doesn’t have to take place at home. Any place that can be seen as safe and happy is a good place to visit and share a little about ourselves. It is in these little meetings that we find out how we can best support these kiddos to make the most of their childhood. All these little moments have a habit of adding up into a bigger and more meaningful relationship that will last a lifetime.

 

College Visits – At the elementary level fourth and fifth graders get to visit colleges thanks to funding and support from Kids on Course. This year fourth graders will visit Kirkwood Community College and see all that this incredible educational resource can offer them in the future. Current undergraduates come and speak to our students about their daily life, classes, jobs, and dreams for the future. The fifth graders board buses and head to Cedar Falls for a day at UNI. Students learn new words and concepts like dorm, major, study abroad and professors. They get to tour a dorm room, see what goes on in a “live” classroom, run the length of the football field, and end the day off with pizza and ice cream in the food court.

Kids on Course aims to put all children on a path to college, with college meaning any accredited learning after high school. We can talk about future goals but until students have a true understanding of what’s out there, they really can’t imagine it. These experiences give our kiddos a first-hand look at something they may have never seen before so they can see that they have the power to make their own choices in life.

 

Operation Backpack – This is a partnership between the schools, KOC, and HACAP (Hawkeye Area Community Action Program) to provide food bags for students to take home over the weekend. Like all Kids on Course activities and programming, this a free opportunity for families. This is vital resource for families who may need a little extra help providing consistent meals during a time of hardship.
We believe that no kid should ever have to go to bed hungry due to lack of available food at home.

Those who work at HACAP are absolutely wonderful people who believe the same thing. They so graciously host volunteers to pack thousands of food bags a week for schools all over the city. KOC schools account for roughly 250 of those bags a week. This tells us the need for support is out there. We are happy to help fill that need. A huge thank you goes to all the help and support from people and organizations in the community like Hailey Carr, HACAP, Meth-Wick, Toyota-Financial, and Mrs. Janet for always having these bags packed and ready to go.

 

As the Site Manager, it’s my job to make sure all these different elements happen and that all children who want to participate can. That means I spend time coordinating buses, or scheduling activities, and communicating with parents. I also am a mentor to the students I serve and get to share my love of learning with them, as well as my love of recess. Even after six years I’m still excited about the work I get to do with Kids on Course and realize that this actually isn’t a job, it’s my purpose.

February 8, 2019

The Day and the Life of a Middle School Manager

Cast of Characters:

Mr. Josh: Kids on Course Site Manager at Wilson Middle School.

Martin: A male student in the 7th grade.

Ashley: A female student in the 7th grade.

Sophia: A female student in the 7th grade.

Student Leader: A student with a group of students that follow.

Chris: 6th grade student.

 

Scene:

Various times throughout the school day at Wilson Middle School.

Time:

The present.

 

Act I, Scene I:

 

Setting:            It was a cold winter’s day and all through the school are children laughing and screaming, adults hustling and bustling and the occasional dog lying about wanting nothing but to stretch and fetch. Then, all of a sudden, the fire alarm goes off and the springs in our boots bounce us into action. The wind blowing harsh enough to make us shiver and quiver our whole bodies over. Kids confused, adults disappointed because we know why the alarm was set off. One bad decision. Just a normal day, unexpectedly normal.

 

At Rise:            Mr. Josh is starting his day. He pulls up and parks his car in front to the building and sees the students and staff outside. When it’s time to go back inside he takes off his jacket and whips it around his chair and throws his bookbag on the floor next to his desk. Hits the power button to his two laptops and in comes students needed space to work and talk.

 

Mr. Josh: (Sniffles nose) Kids, I know that it’s still early in the day but now that we are back inside, we need to get to work. What are you working on?

 

Martin: Math. I have to finish this worksheet.

 

Ashley: I’m working on my social studies packet

 

Mr. Josh: Great! Let’s have at it then. Whatever you don’t finish is homework. Take it home and actually work on it. I’ll be checking in with your teachers to see if it’s finished.

 

Martin and Ashley: Yeah, yeah, I know.

 

Sophia: Hey I finished all my work in class can I come in here and hangout.

 

Mr. Josh: Did you get permission from your teacher?

 

Sophia: Yep.

 

Mr. Josh: Then yes that fine. I have students in here working so you need to respect that they need quiet time to work.

 

(Bells ring)

 

End Scene.

 

Act I, Scene II:

 

Setting:            Bells ring and the kid’s wings take flight out the door. Lunch. Kids bursting throughout the halls screaming and yelling. Their favorite part of the day. 1,2,3,4 kids… feels like 20. It’s actually 25. 25 Kids eating in the Kids on Course room. Hardly enough chairs. It’s crowded. Chess games going on. Kids arguing about the rules of UNO. Does anybody really know the actual rules? Kids spilling ‘tea’.

 

At Rise:            Mr. Josh builds relationships with his students during lunch.

 

Mr. Josh: Remember when you’re done eating, you’ll stack your trays and two of you will volunteer to take the trays down to the lunch room.

 

Student Leader: (Speaking loud enough to quiet the room) Mr. Josh we need to talk we have tea.

 

Mr. Josh: I’m all ears! What problem are you having today?

 

Student Leader: (Students following with a snickering smile on their faces) Ok, so this boy said that he like me today and they all heard, and I just rolled my eyes because I though this was over. I told him I wasn’t interested. Why is this happening to me?

 

Mr. Josh: You’re free to feel how you feel but next time try not to roll your eyes and let him down softly. It takes a lot of courage to ask someone out and it would have been nice for you to recognize that.

 

Students Leader: Yeah but I don’t like him, and he know that why would he ask me out. Ugh that was just dumb.

 

Mr. Josh: You don’t have to like him just try and respect his feelings. You don’t have to feel the same way and feel free to share your point of view.

 

Student Leader: Ok.

 

(Bells ring)

 

End Scene.

 

Act I, Scene III:

 

Setting:            Kids are in and out of the Kids on Course room all afternoon working on classwork. Asking for help. Needing redirection to stay on task. Praising for getting their work done. The last bell rings and the kids sing. The end of the school day signifies an extension of learning and challenges for the students. Chess Club and After school tutoring begins.

 

At Rise:            Students from all grades partake in Chess Club and tutoring. Mostly 6th grade with some 7th and 8th sprinkled in. Making critical thinking something the kids seek and making learning as fun as possible. Growth.

 

Mr. Josh: (Gives instructions) Head inside the room and take a seat. Your day is going to look like this. First, snack will be ready in a moment. Then we’ll go outside for ‘brain break’ and give that head of yours a time out. Once ‘brain break’ is over, the chess club players will come back into my room and set up a board and start playing. Remember chess is a thinking game and silence and patience is encouraged. Slow your mind down. Like chess, life is much the same. For those that are in tutoring you will head to your classroom and you’re teacher will be waiting for you.

 

30 min pass

 

Mr. Josh: Let’s go kids! It’s time to head back inside! Grab the balls! Thank you!

 

10 min pass

 

Chris: I left my coat outside can I go back out and grab it?

 

Mr. Josh: No, I’ll go get it. I want you in class learning.

 

1 hour 30 minutes pass

 

Students are dismissed from Chess Club and Learning Lab. Chaos consumes the Kids on Course room with kids grabbing their bags and projects they were working on. Chess Club students picking up chess boards and chess pieces and helping tidy the room. Buses arrive at 5:00 pm. Time to get the kids calm before the we hop on the bus. It’s been a long day for them. Repeat.

 

January 3, 2019

When She Read in English

I stare at the pages in the small book, there are pictures too, but the words are the hard part. My mom pulls a chair beside me, she places the book between us. Her hair is thrown up in a bun, the bags under her eyes hanging lower than the night before… her day at work must have been hard. But she never complained. At times I wouldn’t see her until the sun was no longer in the sky. When she would get home, she’d dash into the kitchen to start cooking dinner for her four kids. She was tired. But here she was, sitting beside me with the book neatly placed between us. She begins to read. Her accent thick. Slower than how my teachers would read to me.

My mom couldn’t speak or write English. But that didn’t stop her from reading me a book in English. Her fingers followed along to what she read aloud. My mom would later tell me in my adult life that she never understood what she was saying when she read to me. She didn’t know who the characters were, or what the plot was, but she did do what I thought I couldn’t do: read in English. She knew if I saw her trying to learn to read in English with no educational experience then I would challenge myself to do the same. She would give up 30 minutes of extra sleep to spend her night reading to me. It may not have sounded clear, or perfect, but it was dedication and that’s all I needed.

My parents were two people who came to a place with no experience in the culture. It didn’t stop them. They would preach, “show everyone what you’re made of,” and that’s exactly what I did. I learned how to read, I made friends, I tried out for sports, I was in theatre, and I took every challenge as an opportunity. I wouldn’t have all the right answers, but I knew the right people to ask. I had to figure out how to navigate school systems independently. I had so many questions like “What’s a G.P.A.?” “Where do you take the ACT?” “How do I earn a scholarship for college?”

I found allies in my school who helped me find the answers and became the first in my family to graduate from college. I never took the sacrifices my parents made for me for granted. They truly are powerful people. It is not only my diploma, it’s our diploma.

Today, I work for Kids on Course as a Latino Family Liaison. I am now that trusted source of information and advocacy for children of Spanish-speaking parents. My work includes students from elementary, middle and high school levels. I get to share my love of reading, in both English and Spanish with kids across the educational spectrum. I love honoring my background and showing the students that I serve that there are many barriers, but to never let one of them be you.

 

– Jasmin Sanchez, Kids on Course Hispanic Family Liaison

 


 

Cuando Me Leyó en Inglés…

Miro a las páginas en el pequeño libro, hay imágenes también, pero las palabras son la parte difícil. Mi mamá trae una silla a mi lado, y pone el libro entre nosotras. Su pelo es arrojado en un bollo, sus ojos más obscuros que la noche anterior… su día en el trabajo debe haber sido duro. Pero ella nunca se queja. A veces no la vería todo el día hasta mas noche, porque estaba recogiendo mas horas en el trabajo. Cuando llegaba a casa se apuro a la cocina para empezar la cena para sus cuatro hijos. Estaba cansada. Pero aquí estaba, sentada a mi lado con el libro perfectamente entre nosotras. Levanta el libro y comienza a leer.

Mi mamá no podía hablar o escribir inglés, pero eso no fue una excusa para no leerme un libro en inglés. Ella leía en voz alta con su acento tan fuerte y seguía las palabras en el libro con su dedo. Mi mama leyó más despacio en comparación de mis maestros cuando me leían, pero ella siempre terminaba el libro antes de irme a dormir. Cuando me hice una adulta mi mamá me dijo que ella nunca entendió lo que estaba diciendo cuando me leyó. No sabía que decía la historia o quiénes eran los personajes del libro. Lo que hizo fue hacer lo que yo pensaba que no podía hacer: leer en inglés. Ella sabía que, si la veía tratando de aprender a leer en inglés sin experiencia educativa, entonces me animara hacer lo mismo. Ella daría hasta 30 minutos de sueño extra para pasar ese tiempo leyéndome. No fue tan claro, o perfecto, pero si fue dedicación y eso es todo lo que necesitaba.

Mis padres eran dos personas que vinieron aquí sin experiencia en la cultura. Trabajaron todos los días y aprendieron lo que fue necesario para sacar su familia adelante Ellos constantemente me decían, “Muéstreles a todos de lo que estás hecho”, y eso es exactamente lo que hice. Aprendí a leer, hice amigos, hice deportes, estaba en el teatro, y tomé todos los desafíos como una oportunidad. No siempre tenia todas las respuestas, pero sabía que hay gente en mi vida, como maestros, que podía preguntar. Tuve que averiguar cómo navegar por los sistemas de la escuela. Tenía tantas preguntas como “¿Qué es un G.P.A.?” “¿Dónde se toman los exámenes de los SAT/ACT para pasar en la Universidad?” “¿Cómo puedo obtener una beca para ir a la Universidad?”

Encontré mentores en mi escuela que me ayudaron a encontrar las respuestas que necesitaba. Gracias a eso soy la primera de mi familia en graduarme de la Universidad. Nunca tomé los sacrificios de mis padres como chiste. Gracias a ellos, me dieron la oportunidad de ser alguien.

Mi diploma no es solo mío, también es de mis padres.

Hoy trabajo para Kids on Course como Enlace Familiar Latino, Soy la persona confiable de información y defensa para los niños de padres que son departe de una cultura latino o que hablan español como primer lenguaje. Mi trabajo incluye estudiantes del nivel primaria, secundaria y la preparatoria. Puedo compartir mi amor por la lectura, tanto en inglés como en español con niños de todo el espectro educativo. Quiero que los estudiantes que ayudo sepan que hay muchas barreras, pero nunca dejes que una de esas barreras sea tú.