The First Start Greater Washington Academy had a wonderful first monthly meeting at the Arts Club of Washington on Sunday, September 14th. Students and Mentors alike were ecstatic to see one another after the end the summer immersion in August. Smiles and warm embraces were abundant as we talked about our most recent gathering to take a photo with Director Donald, CFSA and how we occupied our remaining free time before school began.
Students arrived between 8 and 9 am, caught up with each other, and relayed their current class schedules to their mentors. Each student was given a folder with an outline of the monthly meetings for the upcoming academic year and their underlying themes. Also included was a list of the vocabulary words learned over the summer, a new list of 100 words for the upcoming year, contact information for their mentor, and their Reading Plus log-in information. We began the day’s activities at 10 am.
Students broke out in small groups and read a passage that focused on Jazz and the rich history surrounding it. They looked at the origins, progression, and influences on American Culture throughout the years. Then each student answered a few questions exploring the influence of Jazz in the community and rap culture. This assignment provided a way for the senior staff to look at our student’s comprehension levels, as well as sentence structure and vocabulary.
We were then treated to a private performance by the Renaissance Trio, a jazz band comprised of a piano, drums, and base. The Trio played many different jazz styles to introduce how the sound and feel of jazz transformed over the years. They also stopped to engage with the students about the music after each set. Students reflected on parts of their reading to engage band members in meaningful discussions about improvisation, tempo, and rhythm. It was thrilling.
It was such a beautiful day that we were able to eat outside and mingle with the band members while lunch was provided by the ever generous, Arts Club of Washington. A spread of fresh salads, fruits, grilled chicken, steamed rice, BBQ ribs, and cookies for desert. The setting could not have been more picturesque on the brick patio with fountains and trees surrounding us while gentle breezes and sunshine filled the air.
After lunch students were quizzed on ten of the summer vocabulary words. They had to use each word in a sentence. Then we reviewed the new vocabulary word packet and assigned ten words to be learned by the next meeting in October. Expectations for the year were laid out with the understanding that the year would be focused on academics.
Students wrapped up the day by moving outside to the park to celebrate birthdays with cake and little social time prior to pick up by parents, social workers, and guardians. We continue to be encouraged and inspired by these amazing young people as they continue this journey in the right direction this school year. I look forward to seeing everyone again October 5 at the Pentagon City Mall Microsoft as we look at information technologies and research techniques in this media driven age.