student stories

Somerville Middle Schoolers Present to City Council on Affordable Housing

Somerville Middle Schoolers Present to City Council on Affordable Housing

When five young women stepped up to present to the City Council on affordable housing, they demonstrated kids really are the future.

At the Somerville City Council’s May 23 full council meeting, five middle school students from the East Somerville Community School (ESCS) stepped up to share their research and thoughts on affordability in Somerville.

She Took the Time to Care: A Student’s Story

Esmeralda Soto, a Citizen Schools alumna from Cesar Chavez Academy in East Palo Alto will be the first to tell you about the impact that her AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow Sarah Partin has had on her life. In the essay below, which she used for her high school applications, Esmeralda writes about the encouragement that led her to successfully complete eighth grade and apply to competitive private high schools. Here is her story...


On August 26, 2012, I met this one very special person. Her name is Ms. Partin and she is my Citizen Schools program teacher. She has been helping me ever since the day I met her. Every time I need something I know that I can count on her. I look up to her as an older sister.

August 26, 2012 was my first day in the program. Ms. Partin helped me on my first day with my homework and told me about high schools in my area. Ever since that day, she has been helping me stay on task and makes sure that I get all of my work done. Now, she has been helping me to get into a good high school. She takes time out of her teaching just to explain something that I do not understand.

Recently, she has been going to my house to work with my parents on filling out applications and applying for financial aid. She has taken me on shadow days to lots of different high schools, especially the ones that I am applying to. Without her, I would not have been able to apply to private schools like Menlo School. Through her encouragement and guidance, I feel am ready for tomorrow’s challenges.

She took the time to care about whether I learned or not and, because of this, a new world has opened up to me. That new world is going to a more challenging high school and taking on the new challenges in that school and in my future. Now, my smile means I am strong in my own way.

Ms. Partin has showed me how to help others and work very well in a group setting. She has a place in everyone’s heart. In this game of life, she has helped us get started. She says no dream is too big and no goal is too high. When she tells me that, I feel like I can reach my goal any time. I look up to her as the older sister that I never had. We are like the clouds and the rain that can never be separated. She helps me face my social life and overcome my shyness. She is like a candle that consumes itself to light up the way for others.  We have only shared one year together, but I hope I can share more with her.  I can never replace her with anyone else.

Teachers have played such an important part in shaping and guiding my life, especially Ms. Partin.  I don’t think I could ever find the right words to tell her how much her help means to me. A new year is about to begin and I know we are going to be in it together, through thick and thin. I am glad she is a part of my life. I am so thankful for her.

Thanks to caring and committed Teaching Fellows like Sarah Partin -- and to our army of volunteer Citizen Teachers -- we ensure that students make the connection between current education and their future academic and career successes. Thank you to all the adults who have dedicated their time to encouraging, inspiring, and empowering  middle school students to get started on their journey. If you or someone you know is interested in joining the movement and becoming an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow, apply today


Kids Will WOW! You

Ann Lambert is a Second Year Teaching Fellow at the Irving Middle School in Roslindale, MA

When he gets upset or uncomfortable, he puts his hood over his head and walks in circles.  Sometimes he just faces the wall.  When he raises his hand to answer a question, he takes at least one minute to get a word out.  Most often he never finishes his sentence.  He takes everything literally, questioning idioms that roll off the tongue.  And his idea of small talk is playing “would you rather,” posing gruesome scenarios and making you choose how you would prefer to suffer.  He’s awkward, but smart.  Curious, but without social cues.  He’s autistic—Asperger’s syndrome.  He’s Ethan.

Last year, when Ethan was placed in two apprenticeshipsHealthy Eating and Mock Trials—I was (admittedly) nervous.  How is he going to excel in the spotlight?  Healthy Eating? OK, fine.  Maybe he’ll be able to help make and taste the food while others comment on its nutritional value.

But Mock Trials with Discovering Justice?  He will inevitably have to stand before a federal judge, a jury, a bailiff, and a courtroom full of observers and deliver either an opening or closing statement, or a direct or cross examination.  Not Ethan.  He can’t even tell me that the denominator is on the bottom of a fraction without clamming up and putting his head down in distress.

Alas, WOW! season came, and not only did I watch as Ethan presented to a group of nutritionists, comparing and contrasting the caloric, fat, and vitamin content of two different smoothies, I saw him rock his part at the Mock Trial.  Ethan’s mom and sister came to both events, beaming with pride, nodding fiercely with encouragement as he looked to them for approval and confidence.  By the end, they were nearly in tears.  They had been watching their quirky inhibited 7th grade boy come out of his shell and shine in such a unique way for probably the first time ever—and the Citizen Schools Apprenticeship program gave him the opportunity to do that.

So here I am, on the brink of yet another round of WOW!s; and as I reflect on successes and surprises of seasons past, I am reminded why this work is so fulfilling.  It’s the moments when I am proven wrong: when the shy student takes the spotlight, the trouble-maker is engaged, and the daydreamer sits focused.  There are so many dark horses and underdogs of the middle school world, much like Ethan, who develop powerfully when given focused attention and the chance to step up.  Apprenticeships create these occasions for ordinary students to be extraordinary; and those who underestimated them, quite literally, are WOW!’d.

What is your favorite WOW! memory?