Summer Blog #1- A Trip to the Park

This weekend I took my mentee, Mayo, his sister, Emily, and their friend, Jurnye downtown to play in City Garden. We all had a crazy amount of fun. Mayo was especially entranced with those small fountain things that shoot a stream of water from the ground. He liked to try to run past those without getting wet. I tried doing it myself and got soaked. Emily and Jurnye were having none of it because they didn’t want to get water on themselves. I think a small water fight broke out at some point, but it was ok. We all got pizza afterwards and made up.

-David Zhang (mentor)

Turbines at Studio

A couple weeks ago the activity for the day was to make a turbine wheel out of cups that could be powered by water. At first the kids were skeptical as to what the activity was and whether or not it would work. But, after we explained it a bit they got really into it which was awesome to see. Pretty soon the studio was filled with kids running around with cups, tape and plates in hand. They were excited to show the tutors the progress they were making and then we were able to take the wheels outside to test them. Almost all of the wheels were able to me be moved by the water which the kids loved. It was a great day at the studio because it was clear that the kids had had a really good time and they had learned something completely random and new from our activity.

Larisa Bokota, Mentor


What they don't tell you about City Faces is how much you learn from your mentees through simply being with them. As the spring semester of mentoring is coming to a close, I still distinctly recall the first time I met with my mentee, Toni, and brought her back from lunch at Panera Bread. Toni made a request to get some zebra cake snakes from a local gas station store. To me, zebra cakes are an unhealthy snack; I usually eat some raw veggies and hummus or a cup of fruit. Yet I realized that these foods I had always taken for granted because I had never lived in a food desert. I had a car that I could use to drive to go to the grocery store whenever I needed. However, Toni told me that her mom doesn't have a car and has to use metro transport to go to work. In order to get to a grocery store with fresh produce around Clinton-Peabody, you more than likely have to walk. Having an easy mode of transportation helps you reach past your immediate surroundings. 

Good nutrition begins at a young age. I'm seeing this also when I work with kids at the Washington University Nursery School. During mealtimes, most of these kids, who reside in relatively affluent neighborhoods in Clayton, have balanced lunches filled with fresh fruit, vegetables, protein, dairy, and grains from stores like Trader Joe's. It is sometimes shocking to see the difference in food access between these three year olds and some of the kids in City Faces. Lifestyles are shaped through early exposure, but circumstances create inequalities. City Faces has helped me realize my own privilege, confront my own biases, and understand avenues through which I hope to seek change.  

Helen LiMentor

Carnival At Studio

A few of the mentees organized a mini carnival down at the studio, complete with tickets that you paid to participate in the various activities.  We played intense rounds of musical chairs, created stories with each person adding just one or two words to the plot, and (my personal favorite) had a lengthy dance competition.  For the dancing, we first paired mentors up against other mentors, and the mentees chose the winner.  I somehow managed to win my first round despite my awkward movements and self-consciousness.  After a winner had been crowned (not me unfortunately), the mentees grouped up, and the mentors did the same.  Each group went off to a separate part of the studio to choose a song and practice their routine.  I believe the general goal was to be synchronized.  By the time the performance came around the mentors were hopelessly out of step, while the mentees executed a full-fledged routine flawlessly with about 2 minutes of preparation (compared to the mentors 10…).  Everyone had a good laugh at some point during the session (I definitely had many), and I learned that I might be slightly better at dancing that I previously thought!

Tommy Dvergsten, Mentor

Sunny Day In Forest Park

On Saturday afternoon I biked down to Forest Park to meet the mentees and mentors for a relaxing sunny day.  I was really excited because I got to see Alex, my mentee who I hadn’t been able to meet with for awhile.  When I got there alot of the mentees were petting a police horse in a field by the History Museum, and we then played frisbee for a while with some of the mentees.  It felt good to get out into fresh air, and I also let Alex (attempt to) ride my bike for awhile.  Even though I had to leave early, I was glad I was able to spend some time with the kids on such a nice day at the park.

Alex Sanchez, Mentor

First Day at the Garden

I’m going to talk about last weekend, February 20th, since it was my first day as a City Faces volunteer working with the kids in the community garden. I didn’t really know what to expect--I wouldn’t consider myself an experienced “kid person.” It was beautiful that Saturday, above 73 degrees, so I went in excited that we would get to be outside with the kids. As soon as we got there at around 11, we split up into pairs and walked around and picked up kids and helped set up. I went to one house and picked up two girls, and by the time we made it back to the garden, there were a bunch of kids (of all ages!) running around and playing tag and starting up the arts and crafts. That’s when I finally realized how excited I was about what I was going to do that day, for the next semester, and hopefully next few years. The activity of the day was to make self-portraits out of organic materials and photos--we had lentils, papaya seeds, and then we also printed out pictures of different fruits and vegetables. I talked to a lot of different kids that day, whether they were following through with the activity or not. Some kids sat at the picnic table and had a lot of fun with the portraits, and some kids wanted to run around and play tag and braid my hair. After the day was over and we put all the fun portraits and paintings back in the studio and headed back to the metro, I was really happy with the outcome of the day. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but I was pleasantly surprised with how genuinely happy and engaged the majority of the kids were during the time we were there. They seemed to be excited to see us and eager to do the different arts and crafts and get some exercise. It was a really great first time with the kids, and I am so grateful I will be able to follow through with this for the rest of the semester!

Maya Dutta, Community Garden Volunteer

Crayons & Watercolor

At the studio, we were playing around with crayons and watercolors to make some neat designs that played off of the crayon’s hydrophobicity. At first the kids were not really interested, but one of the Friday tutors, Alex, made what essentially became a demo piece, where he drew a bunch of spirals in crayon and painted over it, which showed perfectly what the point of the project was. Naturally, crayon spirals became the most fashionable thing of the night and we ended up with about 15 different paintings (at leas four of which were from Janiya) of crayon spirals with watercolor over it. Jovan was also nice enough to go and get a bunch of wings, chips, and juice for the kids, so we ended up not only painting that day, but also having a fun food and dance party!

Brian Alloway, Day Leader

Shining Through a Rainy Day

It was pouring when we went to the studio to tutor this week, so most of us thought that very few kids would show up. Fortunately, this was not the case, and pretty soon the studio was filled with kids. Our planned activity was to make drums out of cups and plastic wrap, but that only kept the kids busy for a couple minutes. For the rest of the time, half of the group colored and made fortune tellers at the table and the other half made paper airplanes and threw them across the studio. I spent most of my time making paper planes for the kids to throw because apparently my planes flew pretty far and the demand for them was really high! On a day that started out dark and gloomy, we were really glad to see the kids enjoying themselves and flashing their bright smiles!

Aahil Merchant, Tutor

An Introduction to Q and Her Mentor Bobbie

This is Q, Raenesha (Q’s friend in the tan jacket), and myself during one of our weekend meetings.  I’ve been paired with Q for almost 3 years now, and I’ve really enjoyed all the time we’ve spent getting to know each other. Q is the really nice, sweet 17-year-old in the pink jacket. Whenever we meet together, we usually either go walk around downtown while talking and catching up, grab a meal, or spend some time on the Wash U campus. This time, we walked over to the Arch and explored the underground museum. I think it was a really good, fun experience for the girls because they hadn't been exposed to a lot of the things we saw there. Even though this was their first time seeing some of the stuff, it was cool to see them appreciate a different culture and way of life. This was just one of our outings, but every experience I’ve had with Q has had a lasting influence on me. One of the things that has touched me about Q is her big heart, and how much she cares for everyone she is around. I have enjoyed growing up together and learning from each other because our lives are so different. Through sharing experiences, we are able to have fun while also recognizing the differences in our lives. I'm very proud of who Q is becoming, and I'm really blessed that I've had the opportunity to be a part of that.

Bobbie Brown, Mentor

Painting and Other Shenanigans

Aiki loves getting his picture taken!

Aiki loves getting his picture taken!

The theme for this past week was space week, and my group was responsible for creating a science related activity. We made signs with all the different planets and were going to demonstrate the spacing between the planets when the tutors were reminded of the sad fact that Pluto was no longer a planet. There were a lot more kids who showed up this week than before and many of them were new which is very exciting! It was my first time meeting the four Lee sisters: Akeira, Amirra, Ajala and Ayana: they were all so lively and adorable. The planned activity didn’t actually happen because the kids were having a lot more fun painting. It was really interesting seeing everyone's unique style of painting; some of them meticulously painted defined lines and shapes while others abstractly splashed colors around. After painting, most of the kids went outside and played tag and other games. Aiki caught two butterflies and released them in the studio. Madison and Janaya taught the tutors dance moves while Edna watered some plants. All in all, it was a great time, and everyone really enjoyed the day.

Smrithi Mani, Tutor

New Faces

We added some new kids at City Faces today and got to sign up some more kids to participate! Christian, Janiya, Hassan, Jared, Jerry, Madison, and Joshua are now a part of our City Faces family. Christian, Jared, and Jerry came this week and they were really fantastic. Christian sat and did homework the whole time and when I asked if he needed help he would say he got it. I felt bad that he didn’t get to run around like the other kids and do the activity, but he seemed to be happy to be there. Jared and Jerry were fun and really good kids. Another kid provoked Jerry and he started chasing him, but as soon as I caught him and talked to him for a little he understood and calmed down. He seemed to listen to me and begin to grasp that fighting isn’t the answer. Even though Hassan didn’t come on Thursday, I’ve met him before as he is always with Armon and Daryl. He is a really calm and adorable kid who likes being around his older cousin. Overall, it was great meeting these new kids and I can’t wait to have more to join us!

Eva Nip, Day Leader