As we enter a week of Thanksgiving recess, we’re thinking about everything we’re thankful for at SEGL. One of the top items on our list is the first and second graders at Thomson Elementary, who have taught our students an enormous amount this fall.
Every Wednesday afternoon for just over an hour, dozens of 1st and 2nd graders look up at–and to–our SEGL students. We are in Thomson Public Elementary School’s third-floor gym for another week of our “Books and Basketball” community service program. It’s a meaningful change of pace and an opportunity to both learn from and serve our neighbors.
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 an upbeat, gently-disciplined environment. The students learn teamwork, cameraderie, 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 Thomson students get one-on-one or small group attention that is exceedingly rare in their day-to-day lives.
It’s a modest program with an outsized 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.