Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Naeko Martin, an alumni of City Year New Hampshire shares her insights from her experience!
Hello readers, Brandi Worley again, a member of the mighty Wilson Wolves, back to share interesting thoughts from a past Wolf. My team hit the ground running in early August, and over the last six, powerful months, we look to each other to make things work in a cohesive and efficient manner. Over at Henry Wilson Elementary School, I figured this would be a great time to seek advice from an alumni on what to expect next. Miss Naeko, as the children call her, was a member of the first City Year team to serve at Henry Wilson Elementary School. She served in Miss Shea’s third grade class. I picked her brain on what to expect, how she reflects, and things to look out for.
When anybody asks me what I do for City Year, they always follow-up with “Why New Hampshire?” I figured why not ask the same of Naeko. “I chose City Year because I knew I wanted to take a break before attending college. A productive year off [was the goal], but I still ended up in a school. Go figure” she said with a chuckle. “When looking for a site, I pulled up the list of available places on http://www.cityyear.org, honed in on the east coast, which was far away from [my home in] Alaska. That narrowed it down to Boston, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. I closed my eyes and picked. I was gonna go where I was meant to go.”
Sounds like Miss Naeko is pretty adventurous and looking for a change, right? Working with City Year, it’s this fearless attitude that enhances our “can do attitude” brought out during our time as a first year corps members. As mentioned before, Naeko was a part of the first City Year Corps serving full-time in Manchester elementary schools. I wondered how that was? “Being the first corps to introduce the concept of City Year was a really big and important thing to all of us,” shared Naeko. A burning question I had to ask, she answered with ease and a smile, “What has kept you in Manchester?” As she looked around the room to keep watch of the after school club, she said “kind of to see my kids graduate from Wilson. Miss Jamie [the 21st Century afterschool coordinator] offered me a job which made it that much easier. I really want to keep seeing my kids, even if they have new City Years. I want to see them grow because some of the kids don’t have a constant presence in their lives. Even if they don’t realize it, I am sticking around to keep an eye on them”. The connection she feels with her students is recognizable. Drawing closer and closer each day, I don’t question that her choice to stay was a no brainer. As she answered the question, I quickly followed up with, “other than your students, who greatly impacted your experience?” Her answer, though short and sweet, is what I hope to have. “My team leader, Amber, was more than just a leader, she was a friend. We have kept in contact over the past year by becoming pen pals.”
In some cases, when we are presented opportunities and we don’t use them to our fullest ability, we reflect on what we could have done differently. A founding story that City Year uses to emphasize making the best of what you have, because you never know how it will reward you in the end, speaks to this common mistake. When I asked Naeko, “What would you do over or do more of, if you could go back in time?” She gave me a face that read I’ve thought about this before, and then she answered “I would stop and smell the roses and enjoy my corps year more. I was kind of private and to myself during my corps year. I wish I had gone out and bonded more with my fellow corps members. Not that I didn’t bond with them, I just wish I could have done more of it”. “When did this epiphany occur?” I asked. “When City Year [June, 2011] ended, I thought, this was a really good experience, why didn’t I enjoy that more?”
We brought the interview to a close with some lessons Naeko has learned and wants to share with the FY13 and corps beyond us. “It gets rough during the year but you need to find something that keeps you motivated. Also, kind of random, but appreciations. Some people don’t realize how important it is to let others know how much you appreciate them. I wish I had appreciated [the corps] more often in the moment. For example, letting my teacher, team leader [Amber] or Program Manager know how much their words helped and made a difference. I could say it now, but I feel like it would have made more of an impact had I spoken up earlier”.
In my opinion, these thoughts shared from Miss Naeko are not to be taken lighthearted. As the FY13 corps has been reminded on numerous occasions, we only have one first year experience. I hope that when I look back on my days with City Year, I can say that I took her words of wisdom to heart and came out with no regrets. I want to end this interview blog, by doing just as Naeko stated, by appreciating others. Naeko, when you read this, know that you are appreciated for helping mold City Year New Hampshire into the wonderful close-knit site it is and for building those relationships within the schools. Signed Brandi Worley, your wolf legacy.