CityStep is a Harvard original and utilizes the many talents of many different aspects of undergraduates and the city. As one of the leaders of CityStep my review is certainly biased, but I think that you will find that anyone involved in the organization will also hold the organization in such high praise.
CityStep teaches local Cambridge 5th and 6th graders arts education mainly through dance and other team activities. 5 teams of six teachers and one director work with Cambridge students twice a week in 1 to 2 hour sessions. The in-school programs goes into Cambridge classrooms and works with students as a part of their academic curriculum. The after-school program works with students that were a part of the in-school program last year, that have chosen to continue working with us in their spare time.
I am a producer for CityStep, which means that I do not directly work with the children (which is good since I really cannot dance all too well!) all the time. Instead I work on making sure the organization has the money, publicity, and general organization to reach out to the 100 Cambridge Students. I spend most of my time as an Executive Producer directing and organizing the many other producers in the organization.
The most remarkable part of CityStep, the part that makes it so different from any other organization, is that it really gives back a lot to each Harvard student that puts time into it. I have talked to a lot of people that tutor kids in other programs and it feels like they need to convince themselves that the kids they work with are getting something out of it, but after an entire year of hard work (and it certainly takes a lot of time and energy) most of the kids we teach cannot believe that it is over. Teachers and producers often find that the stress from and the energy they put in during the last push (for the final dance production) is almost too much, but when the kids are on stage and then trying to say goodbye at the end of it we realize that we have built some amazing relationships with some dedicated Harvard students. There is also a very strong subculture among the undergraduates because CityStep sometimes consumes your life, but everyone is quick to praise your effort and success. For me CityStep will certainly be an important part of college experience because of the work and the people.
The most amazing element of CityStep for me as a producer has been the limited structure which allows great flexibility for me to add and change different areas. Such a large and established organization may appear to not be able to allow someone to explore new opportunities or redefine a focus, but the history of CityStep only outlines what needs to be done each year it is up to its teachers and producers to adjust the program with their own touch each year. I have been able to put my mark on different areas because the most important characteristic of CityStep is that it relies on individual passion and follow through.
My greatest criticisms of the organization has been the separation of producers from teachers. When I was a show producer I did not get to know the teachers until late in the year. As an Executive Producer I get to interact with teachers a lot more and have tried to bridge that gap some more, but there still is too great a distance. Also producers are not able to work with the children as much as we would like either.
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