W0D2 The best laid plans…

The plan: go to work, come home (Bronx home), try a new yoga studio at 6:30pm, come home again and fall asleep.

That did not happen. It was an overly optimistic plan anyway.

I’ve told a bunch of people, but not everybody, what it is I am doing here this summer. Last summer, in Chicago, I was an instructor in the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program: one classroom, nineteen girls, two teaching assistants, seven hours a day, five days a week for seven weeks. Basically. This year, in New York, I’m one level up – a site lead. It’s sort of like being a cruise director. It’s my job to make sure everyone has a great time.

This is how I anticipate spending my summer. We’ll see later what actually happens.

A large portion of my time, I’ll be in one of my seven classrooms (ATT, Accenture, BlackRock Financial, Pfizer (2 classes), Synchrony Financial, and Viacom) getting a feel for the atmosphere, keeping an eye out for anything that might prevent someone from having the Best Summer Ever. That “someone” includes all the teaching staff and the many (often 40 or more) people who help us from those partner companies (who make as tremendous financial commitment as well). I also get to go on field trips (there are some really cool ones – I have to get them in my calendar so I don’t miss the best. I’ll talk about them as they happen. Since many of you are current or erstwhile (or, perhaps, ersatz) Bellringers, I’ll let slip that one of the trips will include someone on the trip (not me) ringing a bell at the end of the day. It’s a cool trip, to somewhere you’ve definitely heard of.

In addition to classroom observations, I check in weekly with each teaching team after the girls have left. Hmm, now that I think about it, that is going to be a trick – six sites, but only five days in a week. Clearly, the only possible solution to this dilemma is to find the site that caters the best lunch, and meet with the teaching staff while the girls eat and meet with their mentors. Lunch is included in the SIP for the girls (and teaching staff). This is is not just a perk, but actually is an important part of the program which was not in place in the early years. The students are chosen to represent a wide array of social, cultural, racial and economic backgrounds. If lunch isn’t provided, some girls will simply have nothing to eat (“Oh, I’m just not hungry today.”), while others will have fancy lunches. So lunch is provided including adjustments for food allergies and religious requirements. Lunch is the great equalizer. As I’ve said before, this is a quality program.

The check ins include addressing whatever concerns the teaching staff have, making sure they are working well together, offering suggestions about how to address things I’ve noticed in the classroom, talking through plans for upcoming activities, and the like.

The first part of each day for me will be checking attendance from each classroom and contacting parents if a student is unexpectedly absent. The girls are allowed only two absences all summer- this is to ensure that the partner companies are reaching as many girls as possible with the resources they provide. Bang for the buck.

We (the site leads) also act as filters to determine which things need to be escalated into the GWC organization. Many students come from difficult circumstances at home, and GWC provides resources to support them. We (all the staff) are mandated reporters as well, so we immediately report and escalate any signs of abuse.

I’ll also be checking in with our contacts and support people at the host companies to make sure everything is going smoothly from their point of view. Having twenty teenagers spend all day in your workplace for many weeks can be both fun and, um, disruptive. For the most part, the host companies really enjoy having the energy and excitement the girls bring. They also need to get work done.

Having said all that, I had Week 0 meetings with two classes today. (It is called Week 0, because it it the week before Week 1 for the girls. It is a week of preparation for the host site and the teaching teams. The W0D2 refers to Week 0 Day 2, if you are keeping track.) Both meetings went well. At all three companies I’ve visited so far this week, the people we are working with are simply top-notch. They are excited, driven, and so very capable. We are all on the same page about making this the Best Summer Ever. Some have even asked me to spy on other companies to make sure their activities are up to snuff.

My second visit was to Synchrony Financial which is located in Stamford. It will henceforth be known as “Tattoine” because of it’s location in the Outer Rim. Under normal circumstances, it’s takes an hour to get from Grand Central to Stamford, if you are lucky enough to catch the express. Today, though, was a tough one for the MTA. This didn’t seem to have an effect on Metro North, but the train stopped in Pelham while its computer reset. I took a cab from the train station to Synchrony. ($20. I pay my own transportation costs to Stamford, but GWC compensates me by paying me while I travel there. ) I ended up being 9 minutes late to the meeting (I had planned to arrive 20 minutes early, but the computer glitch ate that up.) Those 9 minutes became 39 because the receptionist, though she truly tried valiantly, couldn’t locate the meeting (mostly because they had walked over to the security office to get badges). Eventually, we met up and I got caught up.

As it turns out, now that I have a badge, I will be able to take the free Synchrony shuttle from the train station to the campus (yay!). In fact, I took it on the way back. While I rode, I checked Google maps to see if there was a way to avoid going all the way downtown, just to ride all the way back uptown again. Then a magical thing happened! Google suggested that I get off at Fordham and take the Bx9 bus and poof, I’m at my morning train stop in an hour and a half! This is great because if I go downtown, that ‘s two hours plus 20 minutes of walking plus waiting for the connection – each way.

The upshot is, if I can catch the 4:45 in Stamford, I’ll be home by 6:15! Sadly, the shuttle dropped us off at 4:42, and I didn’t run fast enough to catch the train. The next one that stopped at Fordham was at 5:32, and it was an express, so I decided to wait. This is why I always bring food with me (two bananas and a granola bar today). Then this happened ( a 30 minute delay – why aren’t you following the links? You should be following the links. At least mouse over them before you ignore them.) The tweet belies the true mess that was happening. The 5:32 ended up cancelled, and the 5:35 local took over – 15 minutes late. At 5:50 I climbed aboard and found a seat – good thing too. At every stop more and more people crowded on until it was SRO, and barely any of that. Here is a picture out the window, where it was rather pleasant.

I got off the train at 6:50pm and asked Google directions home, and got a surprise! With a nine minute walk (6 blocks) I could get dropped off by a bus (Bx2) near my front door! I serendipitously requested directions home instead of to my morning train stop, and consequently got a ride up the hill instead of having to walk. The 6 blocks weren’t too bad – it was along East Fordham Road (in the opposite direction of the university) . It is a very well populated, heavy retail strip – I passed 3 ice cream trucks (as well as everything from The Gap to stores that sold surprisingly skimpy outfits – that one looks like a couple of strings of beads to me), plenty of street vendors, too. I missed the Bx2 bus by 15 seconds, so I had to wait another 10 minutes for the next one. I finally made it home around 7:40pm. That was a long day.


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