This blog does not reflect the ideas and views of City Year.
Imagine being in a classroom with more than 30 middle school students-most who can’t read past a third-grade level. These students come from lives of poverty, hurt and strife. They’ve been told they can’t succeed for years. My mission is to get them to believe they can.
Across San Antonio there are 80 individuals who work throughout the community as an educational support force through the organization City Year. City Year is a national non-profit under AmeriCorps that unites 18-24 year olds from all over America in ten months of community service. Our job is to tutor and mentor middle and high school students, coaching them in attendance, behavior and coursework. We keep them in school and on-track to graduate.
When I applied for City Year, I didn’t know much about the organization. What compelled me to join was the motto: Give a year, Change the world. After further research, I saw that the work the organization did was directly inline with service I did in my past. My father is a Pastor and even at a young age he would take me with him as he visited the sick, aided the poor and worked to mend broken families. In high school I was an elementary school tutor, peer mediator and youth advocate through the program Teen Court. In college I spent my summers at the Boys and Girls Club educating youth on making smart lifestyle decisions, deterring them from drugs and gangs.
During a leadership conference, I was charged to create my vision for the world. I choose to envision a place where youth overcome all obstacles. I saw City Year as a means for my vision. Armed with idealism and excited to be accepted, I packed my bags, moved from my North Carolina home to the unknown San Antonio.
It wasn’t until I got here that the reality of my situation hit.
I was placed at Stonewall Jackson Davis middle school working with 7th graders in English. The school had a bad reputation for violence and low performance. In fact, the school district had rated Davis as academically unacceptable. But administration and staff were determined to stick to their motto, “It’s a new day.”
I realized my impact when I was in class working on a reading assignment with one of my overage students– a 16-year-old still struggling through the 7th grade. She began to tell me about how tragic events in her past caused her to feel that she was born to be miserable. She lashes out with violence, but continues to be in pain.
My immediate thought was, “Why me?” But quickly turned that thought to, “If not me, then who?” I have continued to support this student, and for the first time she is achieving in school.
I admit it has not been easy. We arrive at school before it starts, tutor all day, host an after school program and put on special events. Working 60-hour weeks with little sight of the outcome can make the sanest person insane. Yet, we continue to find strength in the little victories. When a students looks up to you and says I never did work before this, or a student you once watched struggle before with reading or math now participates readily in class, or a student greets you their report card and a smile exclaiming this is the first time that they’ve passed all their classes, everything falls into perspective. In that moment you know, this is why I’m here.
With three months left to go, I still lace my up my boots and pull on my red jacket with pride. When someone asks me what I do, I answer that I inspire confidence and save lives. But above all, I know when I step onto the grounds of my school I am making a difference.