Light Up The Darkness

When asked to write this blog post it made me go and re-read the only blog I’ve ever kept. The motivation for starting this blog was my move from Athens, Georgia to San Antonio, Texas after college to join City Year. I served as a corps member and then as a team leader at Christa McAuliffe Jr. High School on the southwest side of San Antonio. This is my second year as a program manager and I couldn’t be happier than I am working with the amazing staff team at City Year New Hampshire. City Year truly helped me find my life’s purpose and passion. San Antonio holds a very dear place in my heart because I had so many pivotal experiences there. I miss so many things about the city especially its amazing cultural influences. I’m going back in a couple of weeks to visit and I can’t wait to visit some of my kids that are in high school. I thought the best way to explain my experience is by including excerpts from my blog, titled “Light up the Darkness.” Enjoy a walk down my memory lane.

City Year San Antonio Corps of 08'-09' at their Basic Training Academy.

Wednesday, September 23rd 2008 at 7:55 PM:

Tuesday was our first day of training; we were painting/cleaning up J St Park. It was a great way to bond and get to know some of the other corps members. But today was our first official day of training and I am pumped. I can’t wait to see what this year has to offer and to take advantage of as many of those opportunities as I can. The way they presented all this information to us today was great. The team leaders were so energetic and I was never bored, not once! And we were there from 9-5!! That’s pretty impressive. The idea of doing City Year a second year (hopefully as a team leader) has definitely popped into my brain… it’s too early to make any of those types of decisions, but I could see it happening. Overall, I’m ridiculously excited about this year. It’s still been a lot of getting to know the people we’ll be working alongside, but the kids I’ll be working with have also been on my mind a lot lately. I can’t wait to meet them and to build relationships. To help them learn and most definitely learn from them as well. I can’t wait to find out what team I’m on and to learn more about EVERYTHING!

Thursday, September 18th 2008 at 6:57 PM:

We’ve started serving in our schools this week. Well, learning and observing, but still interacting with the kids! They have a Mariachi band at this school and a journalism class. I’m most definitely doing to start a creative writing class… probably focusing on poetry/song writing. The team seems to be settling into what we’ll be doing this year. Kids remembered me from yesterday, which was awesome!! Today we observed teachers that have good rapport with their students to get a perspective on how to create that with our tutees and mentees. We stayed after today and went to an 8th grade girls’ Volleyball game. They won! I’m taking it easy tonight cause the whole Corps is getting up bright and early to go to a Habitat for Humanity build tomorrow. I can’t believe we’ll actually be working so much; roughly 55 hour weeks for the next ten months. I can’t imagine people do that at jobs their not passionate about. This is amazing! If you haven’t gotten this already, I’m in love with City Year and San Antonio and McAuliffe Middle School and everything about this choice I made. The End.

Monday, December 8th 2008 at 8:24 PM:

Wow. I can’t believe it’s been a month since I’ve updated. I’m so bad at this. It’s been one heck of a month too. Times were tough for a long while. City Year is amazing, but intense. It kind of started to hit everyone. I was taking it in stride until Laurent left. Then things were pretty much rock bottom. I still loved it. I mean, who wouldn’t love hanging out with kids and when you aren’t hanging out with them you’re planning ways to teach, inspire, and connect with them. But it’s typical to get burned out and we were all feeling that. But the couple weeks before Thanksgiving break things started to miraculously look up. My team had been having some issues, which were finally resolved. The connections with our kids were getting stronger and they were filling us with this unbelievable energy. So now I feel myself on the steady climb up. Back to the top of mountain where I know I belong because let’s be honest; I dig this place, this work we’re doing, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for any other.

Friday, June 5th 2008 at 5:31 PM:

The year is winding down. Today we went to McAuliffe to say good-bye to our kids. It is the last day of school for them. I definitely wasn’t ready for that. I’m so lucky I’ll get to see a lot of the kids again next year, but some CMs won’t. I remember missing them over winter break and I don’t know why that didn’t clue me in that I’d miss them even more now. These kids have been our focus for the past 10 months. Everything we’ve planned from lunch clubs, after school, family nights, a legacy project and so much more… has all been for them. That’s amazing, but it makes leaving them so hard. It’s not hard because of how much we’re helping them and all we want to do is keep it up. This is the part when we realize just how much they inspire, teach and share so much of themselves with us. This is the part when all I want to do is give my all for another year. Not because I want to change the world, but because these kids are some of the most amazing people I know and they deserve nothing less than everything I’m possibly capable of giving. I want to get to know these kids; their struggles, joys and laughter. I don’t care how much harder it’ll make leaving them after another 10 months. I was so touched by the assemblies for the 8th graders today; recognizing their accomplishments and letting them have fun with dancing and a slideshow. Christa McAuliffe Jr. High School will forever have a very special spot in my heart and I’m a far better person because of it.

-Lila Givens, Program Manager


About CityYear NH

City Year is a nonprofit that unites young people of all backgrounds for a demanding year of full-time service. As tutors, mentors, and role models, these idealistic leaders make a difference in the lives of children, and transform schools and neighborhoods across the US and in South Africa. For more information on how to get involved please call the City Year New Hampshire Recruitment hotline at 603-218-5101.
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