City Year’s slogan is “Give a year, change the world.” Corps members have one year to impact the lives of students and provide students with the skills and values needed to move on in school and in life. Working with City Year is a powerful experience, engaging corps members closely with a wide variety of students. Although we work with students in the classroom and focus on academic material, it is impossible to ignore personal circumstances. When a student enters the school building with a bad attitude and no intent to learn, connecting with him/her on a personal level is necessary to help get the student back on track. So many of the students have so many challenges they face in and outside of school; it is truly moving to see everything students are able to overcome and how much help City Year can contribute. Whether it is a student admitting they are far behind in classwork and want extra support, dealing with bullying or being bullied, or sharing problems from home, corps members are there to listen and aid the student.
City Year corps members bond with students on a personal level in order to understand the challenges students have, recognize what sets students off and how to refocus them on work, and to help students set and achieve goals that they truly value. Students come to rely on City Year members, which strengthens the relationship and causes students and corps members to work together to accomplish gains in academic and personal areas. Students reminisce about old City Year members, look up towards current ones, and yearn for future City Year teams. This intense bond is how City Year effects the change to “make better happen.” City Year pledges to lead by example and be a role model for children; corps members show students not only how to learn and engage with school, but how to connect with others, conquer challenges in class and in the world, and how to become leaders for their peers and communities.
Phillip Emeritz, author, is a corps member on the United Way of the National Capital Area Team serving at Kelly Miller Middle School.