In City Year, it is important to share how we know we are making a difference. For me, this is the story that I think of each time I am asked about that. In October of 2011, the team that I was leading was getting into intensively working with our teachers and focusing on the students who were sliding off track in their classes. Just as we were hitting our stride as a unit, the team lost two corps members due to personal circumstances. It was a difficult time for our team and me as the Team Leader. One of these corps members was working with a teacher who had approached us at the beginning of the year and expressed her excitement about having a corps member work in her 7th grade English class. Knowing the passion of that teacher, as well as the students who had already begun to build relationships with their City Year corps member that had to leave, I decided that I would take over working in this class. I quickly got to know the students and identify which ones could be classified as sliding off track based on their grades and behavior in class. I selected four students based on their grades, because at the end of the first quarter they had received 3 Ds and an F. I struggled to find the best way to reach each of them individually as the second quarter began. With these students, the difficulty was not a lack of ability, but the problems resulted from a lack of motivation and effort. Along with the teacher, we came up with systems to encourage the students to participate in class and to complete their homework each day, the latter being a particularly difficult challenge. I tried to find ways to connect them personally to what they were learning in class and show them how much more enjoyable school is when they are active participants and are achieving the grades of which they are capable. By the end of the second quarter the grades of each of my students had improved. One student who had ended the first quarter with an F had improved her grade to a D, but she was still disappointed because she knew that she was capable of doing even better. The three students who had previously fallen into the D range had all improved their grades to Bs. As proud as I was to see that the work we do really can make a difference with these students, seeing the excitement and smiles of the students when they received these grades is a feeling I will never forget.
Currently in my second term of service with City Year, I have continued to connect with those students. We check in about grades, where they want to go to high school, and what they need to do to get there. One of my favorite experiences has been to watch one student in particular continue to excel. He was able to turn around his frequent tardiness, make the honor roll, and star on the basketball team. I am proud to share that next year after lots of hard work and dedication; he will be attending Bishop Hendricken High School.
I know that the work I have done with City Year has made a difference. I can see it in the turnaround of the students that I work with, and I can also see it in myself. Serving for two years and almost 4,000 hours has helped me to see what I am most passionate about. Serving our community and being a part of other people’s service experience and development is something I will carry with me forever.
Thank you to Brittni Paliotta, team leader at Gov. Christopher DelSesto Middle School, for contributing this month’s post.