The Power of a Positive Can Do

written by Sarah Levant, corps member serving on the Spingarn High School team

One of City Year’s most important culture pieces is the  “positive can do attitude”. The power of the positive “can do” is the mindset that positivity increases productivity and positive situations.  City Year’s culture, mission, and idealism are based on this attitude because an optimistic attitude has the power to create world-wide change.

For example, let’s think about a smile. Smiling at someone is the easiest way to brighten that person’s day. Smiling is infectious, and nine times out of ten if you smile at someone, they will smile back. Simply by smiling and engaging students in conversations can affects their “…well-being [which] fuels the thinking and interpersonal trust that lead to … achievement” (Fisher par.9).

Similarly, City Year requires its corps members to make phone calls to parents concerning students’ good and bad behavior and attendance. By reaching out to parents and initiating a conversation, students see corps members care about them. Once students realize that they have a strong support system, they can reach their full potential.  A positive “can do” culture inside and outside the classroom makes students more likely to be successful in life.

By creating an atmosphere of expectations and positivity, students will take pride in themselves and their schools. Once students develop pride and a positive “can do”, students’ tests scores, behavior and health will improve. For example, Sonja Lyubomirsky et. all’s study, The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect, reveals evidence that, “happiness causes success” (Fisher par. 3).  In Lyubomirsky’s research she points out that people who have high levels of energy, sociability and positive views of others, “correlated with increased immunity and physical well-being” (Lyubomirsky et all; Fisher par.3).

City Year’s positive “can do” builds relationships and a school community that leads to improved learning and growth. City Year not only helps with academic achievement but helps students to develop life skills. By keeping a smile and spreading the positive “can do”, you never know what a difference you can make.


Fisher, Sherri. “Happier Students Are Higher Achievers.”  Positive Psychology News Daily.  21 September 2011. Web.  2 January 2012.

Lyubomirsky, S., King, L. A., & Diener, E. The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect. Psychological Bulletin 131.6 803-855 (2005).


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