As school days dwindle down to a precious few, students in Boise classrooms are a bit over-anxious this week--but that's the norm when kids pour out of Grace Jordan Elementary in Boise's Central Bench neighborhood. At Grace Jordan Community Center, just a few feet from the school, Nic Ginter was ready for them.
"Oh yes, you just watch," said Ginter, site coordinator at the community center. "The students... let me correct that: a lot of the students... will be coming over here and, you just watch, they'll be asking for Bekah."
That would be 24-year-old Bekah Spille, who spends part of her days managing the school kids during recess and her afternoons and early evenings as a rec attendant at the community center's after-school program. But that doesn't really describe her.
"She's a rock star," said Ginter with a laugh. "You just watch."
And watch we did, as scores of students competed for her attention. Yet, she treated everyone as if they were a favorite.
Boise Weekly spent a few minutes with the "rock star," minutes before the bell rang and the madness began on one of the last days of the school year.
What was your big dream in high school?
I really wanted to be a photojournalist and see the world. I ended up going to Boise State, where I got a degree in social sciences.
Did some of your thinking change while you were in college?
My eyes were definitely opened to social problems.
The term "social problem" means different things to different people. What does it mean to you?
Well, now I work with Title 1 kids here at Grace Jordan.
Can you appreciate that many people your age don't know what Title 1 stands for?
A Title 1 school means that 50 percent or more of the kids who go to that school qualify for some kind of food assistance.
And yet Idahoans are continuously surprised at how many Title 1 kids live in this state.
Particularly in this neighborhood.
I'm presuming that there is no stereotype for the kids here.
All shapes and sizes, every kind of background.
How did you end up here at Grace Jordan?
It was really random. I had worked for Blue Sky Bagels for years while I was in college. And I had interned with Snake River Alliance and the Sierra Club. And once I graduated I never anticipated working with children, but I applied with the city of Boise to become a community center recreation attendant and somehow got the job. I had done some babysitting before, but nothing like this.
But it's my understanding that you can't hold this job for more than nine months, because of some crazy city of Boise rule, in spite of the fact that this center stays open year-round.
It's a bummer.
And correct me if I'm wrong, but don't you have to wait 90 days to apply to do the same job?
I can't help but think that they risk losing good employees. So, what's in your immediate future?
I want to work this summer with the Treasure Valley YMCA and I desperately want to apply to be a tutor here at the school.
The bell is about to ring any minute. Tell me about the kids who will run through this door.
Mostly 4th- through 6th-graders; completely diverse, so unique and tons of personality.
I'm presuming that you have to be a disciplinarian. What is the art and science to that?
You have to find out the full story behind the behavior and keep your emotions out of it. But mostly, it's a lot of patience.
So, let's talk about a very big honor that came your way from the U.S. Green Building Council.
I heard someone on the radio talking about a competition that challenged schools to implement green-learning and make Idaho schools more earth-friendly. I thought that sounded awesome.
But you were responsible for a whole host of innovations here at the school.
We gathered paper from the school, shredded it, blended it, made new paper and turned it into Christmas ornaments; we built a food compost pile, using scraps from after-school snacks; and we went on field trips to the recycling center and to the Create Common Good garden.
And you started a Green Club here at the school.
That's right. And a yoga club to teach a healthy balance between mind and body.
I'm looking at your trophy; it's pretty unique.
They made it from repurposed metal.
Plus a pretty big check, figuratively and monetarily.
One thousand, five hundred dollars for the school. We're going to get a new greenhouse to turn our own garden into a year-round effort.
Tell me about the phone call announcing that you won.
They said they had some news. I worried at first. Then they said it was good news. It was the best day... ever.
You will be missed here this summer.
Right now, I'm not going to think about that. I'm staying positive.