by Felicia Truman, corps member serving at Gossler Park Elementary School
Growing up in New Hampshire I had heard about the west side of Manchester. My own aunt and uncle sent their children to Catholic school to avoid the public school system. Coming in to serve on the west side of Manchester the negative rumors I heard had left me feeling a little apprehensive, especially since I’d never lived in a city before. But despite the reputation, I quickly learned from the moment I stepped into the parking lot of Gossler Park, that the west side schools have a strong community of thoughtful, hardworking people who care and believe in the students of Manchester.
My team and I were greeted that first day by a teacher preparing to start her year. She had the back door of her car open and was carrying boxes inside. She was excited to see us and immediately began talking about how great the after school program would be and how they were happy City Year would be assisting them. She made some jokes and I could see from the light in her eyes how deeply she cared about her students and I felt excited to work with someone so passionate. In every teacher I’ve encountered at this school, they all share this passion for educating the students. Even the principal made sure to greet us and introduce us to our new home, Gossler Park. From that first day I could see that becoming part of the West side would not just be serving at a new school, but joining a family.
This community extends from the school I serve at to all the west side schools. For example, Parker Varney feels like a sister school. In fact, Gossler Park and Parker Varney are only two miles away from one another. Many of my students play with students from Parker Varney, sometimes students move from one school to another. My roommate serves in the same grade I do at this other elementary school, which gives me the unique opportunity to know how my students are doing even when I am no longer their corps member. The staff also has direct connections, including friends and children. Our principals have a playful professional relationship with each other. This year they decided that the school that got higher NECAP scores would have the other school’s principal dress up in the winning school’s mascot and visit the winning school as a congratulatory gesture. The schools also make efforts to connect with the high school and middle school. This year Gossler even changed its colors so that the west side schools could be more unified.
I tried to enter this school year with an open heart and an open mind even though I had heard many negatives about the school district and the west side in general. I’m glad that I was given this opportunity to work in this school system and prove these stereotypes wrong. I have been fortunate to have met so many incredibly hardworking individuals who strive for excellence and believe in their students no matter what the stereotypes of our district are. I’m thankful that I’ve been chosen to be part of this family and I will continue to do my best to give all I can to the West side because they deserve that.