Those were the words I delivered at our Opening Day Ceremony and they motivate me every day. No one ever said it’d be easy to serve. I knew this when I joined City Year, and I sometimes have to remind myself that it’s ok to feel overwhelmed by the work load, the stress, and the trials we all face that come along with working to keep students on track. But given the nature of our work and its importance, I find myself relieved. The work by itself can wear one down, but in the larger context of its purpose and results, it’s rejuvenating.
At Parker-Varney, my team has toiled endlessly over making Starfish Corps, our afterschool program, everything it can be, fun, exciting, a safe place for learning, and our students are having a very enjoyable time; I’ve heard nothing but effusive praise. In addition to this program, our team works with a ”focus list” of kids during the school day. These kids are students that are identified to be off-track in literacy and/or mathematics and need that extra level of attention and push that corps members can provide to keep them on grade level. Sometimes, the reality and setbacks of some of these students can be difficult to deal with. One of my math students, for instance, completely failed his math exam from last week, despite demonstrating a mastery of the content when I worked with him one-on-one. To say I was discouraged would be to put it lightly; seeing the grade on his paper, and the questions he got wrong, I felt physically ill, because I knew he was capable of doing much better. But far from letting this knock me down, I felt a renewed sense of determination to ensure he does better next time.
Stories like this have come up a number of times recently among my teammates, but we stay strong. We serve because we know we can make a difference in the lives of these kids. We serve because we want to help, and we serve because we can. Though we’ve found it’s tough from time to time, we serve because it’s who we are, and because at the end of the year, we’ll look back on our work and be able to identify all our points of success, even if those victories can be obscured on the day-to-day level.
At City Year, it isn’t hard to believe in what we do. But that’s exactly why I serve: because I’ve been given the chance to make things better. Because countless people along the way have helped me get to where I’m at now, and it’s my turn to help others get on their path. There’s no reason every child in America can’t have the same opportunities I’ve been given, so I’ll make sure they do. That’s a moral crusade worth fighting for and that’s why I serve.