By Tom Ryan, Senior AmeriCorps member serving on the National Grid team with The English High School 

Last fall, I served on the Bank of America team with Young Achievers Science and Math Pilot K-8 School. I had a student in my fifth-grade classroom named Kyle* who was not engaged in class. He was scoring well below his grade level on math assessments. Not because he wasn't smart — he was incredibly intelligent — but something wasn't working.

Kyle and I would play basketball at recess, and he would take shots and pretend that he was a Celtics player, saying the names of various players. He was surprised and excited when he found out that I knew who he was talking about. I love the Celtics too, so as we talked more about our favorite players and the latest scores, it strengthened our relationship. That bond started at recess and as I built trust with him, it overflowed into the classroom as well. I made math more engaging for him by incorporating sports statistics into lesson plans. We would use fractions to calculate the percentage of shots made out of shots taken for each Celtics player. 

Instead of crumpling papers, he began to listen to me in class. By the end of the year, his grades and behavior had improved dramatically. At the end of year, he showed the most academic progress of any student that I worked with and was slightly above grade level in math. 

This year, Kyle has a new City Year AmeriCorps member, Allie, in his classroom. Allie is helping Kyle continue the progress he began with Tom and they work together to set academic goals. She is seeing Kyle taking personal responsibilty for his learning and becoming increasingly reflective, self-aware, and empathetic.

*Name is changed to protect student's privacy.

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