Sometimes our Ethics and Leadership case studies track uncomfortably closely with current events. That was the case this week as the mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon interrupted our investigation of the Second Amendment. As a result, one of our key speakers was not able to join us, and so we’re postponing the end of the case study until later in the semester. Instead of discussing our academic work, this week’s blog post is about our weekly service activity.
Every Wednesday afternoon at 4:30, dozens of 1st and 2nd graders put their toes on the mid-court line in the Thomson Public Elementary School third-floor gym. For the next hour, 24 “big people”–students from The School for Ethics and Global Leadership–give their time to coach basketball and reading.
It’s another week of our “Books and Basketball” community service program, and another opportunity to live out our mission statement.
Thomson is a Title I DC public school; 99% of its students receive free or reduced-price lunch. Nearly 2/3rds of its students are Latino/a, 20% are Chinese, and the remainder are African American. Most of the Latino and Chinese students are English language learners and come from immigrant families.
For half an hour, we teach basketball in a fun, positive environment. The students learn teamwork, discipline, and fine motor skills. They learn to yell “cookie jar!” after our students shout “follow through” and to wait to run until a big person says “go!” (not “go-rilla!”). And then we read with the students for another half hour. The students get one-on-one or small group attention that is exceedingly rare in their day-to-day lives.
It’s a simple program with a big impact on both Thomson and SEGL students. It is easy to see each student’s reading and basketball progress over the course of the semester. And it is easy to see our SEGL students growing in confidence as they try different strategies to mentor and inspire such wonderful, hopeful, and promising kids.