“Sweeter Than a Cupcake”
For the last three years, C’Sherica has served as a site director for the YMCA afterschool program at Thomas Haley Elementary School in Irving ISD.
Every afternoon, she arrives at the school, and when the dismissal bell rings a stampede of bodies and backpacks floods the gymnasium where she waits for her students.
While taking roll, C’Sherica walks around the room greeting kids with a hug or a high-five and listens while they chat about their day or ask questions about homework.
After the initial wave of energy settles and the students disperse to their assigned spots on the floor, C’Sherica and another director go over the planned activities for the afternoon.
First, there’s snack time. The kids rush to form a (mostly) single file line to pick up their snack.
Next is homework or quiet time. All of the students pull out worksheets, a tablet, or a book. C’Sherica walks from student to student, checking in. She sits or lays next to them on the gym floor so they feel seen and heard. The students flock to her. Everyone wants time with C’Sherica.
After quiet time, C’Sherica leads an arts and crafts project for the students who have finished their homework. She kneels on the activity mat alongside them, coloring and chatting about their interests and dreams.
The programming ends with indoor recess. C’Sherica lets the students pick from a list of four games. They choose “sharks and minnows.” Once again, C’Sherica is right in the middle of the activity.
“She likes to go play with us and have fun,” shares Bryce McLaughlin, a fifth-grade student. When asked to describe C’Sherica in three words, he immediately blurts out, “Sweeter than a cupcake.”
Around 6 p.m., parents trickle in to pick up their kids.
C’Sherica releases a tired, but happy sigh as she tidies up the gym and greets parents. C’Sherica thrives in this environment that would be draining to most others. “I think I like the chaos, honestly,” she says about working with so many students at once. “And then seeing what they do.”
Parents praise the effort C’Sherica invests in her students as individuals.
“She’s like a part of the family,” says Jessica Ivy, whose daughter Opal is in the program. “She goes above and beyond to get to know Opal and who she is, and cultivate her learning skills.”
Alicia Taylor, whose son Dallas also attends the program, echoes the sentiment. “She teaches him his multiplication, which I have struggled to teach him. He always tells me, ‘I can’t wait for Ms. C’Sherica to help me. She really breaks it down for me.’ She has a gift for helping kids.”
C’Sherica’s gift for forming connections was born from a family history of close relationships and second chances.