by Shritin Patel – San Antonio, TX
City Year is an education based non-profit organization that takes 17-24 year old young adults from all over the country and gives them the opportunity to serve in inner city schools with at-risk youth. With specialized small group and one on one interventions in Math and English, we aim to help reduce the drop out rate. (The views and opinions below do not reflect City Year or Americorps.)
“Yup in my white tee, name tag so you know me I got spirit you can hear it, and a smile for a while…” As my team hollers our readiness check at the top of our lungs while the sun sleepily rises around us encircling our school in a goldish halo, I can’t help but feel a profound gratitude for where I am in my life.
City Year San Antonio has been the biggest blessing in my life, but it has also been the hardest commitment I have ever made. I first heard about City Year from a friend of mine that had taken on a year of service in New York. Intrigued, I perused the site (www.cityyear.org) and decided right then and there I had to apply. I applied, got in, and made my merry way to San Antonio, but I had no idea what I had just gotten myself into. After I arrived in San Antonio, myself and the other 80 new corps members from different parts of the country came together at the historical Barbara Jordon Community Center in the Eastside of San Antonio for Basic Training Academy. Whilst at BTA we were put through two weeks of intensive training and ice breakers. We were trained in math and English tutoring, behavior modification, working with children, and the social, emotional, and psychological needs of students. We were also forced out of our comfort zones to meet and get to know a room full of strangers, share personal stories, and create a bond that has become the foundation for all the corps feels and accomplishes. A lot of the trainings were frustrating because they were so abstract, but little did I know how useful they would really be.
Most of the students I work with have little to no consistency in their lives. They come from homes where one or both parents are missing or are just generally unavailable. There is this mentality that many of my students cling on to of being ‘tough’. Their surroundings force them to grow up too early, and many of my 11-13 year old students already have gang affiliations and know more about drugs then I could ever imagine was possible. They live in areas where crime is rampant, education is an option, and diversity is non-existent. With that said, my students are my pride and joy. They are unbelievably intelligent, excel at sports, and have amazing insight into the world around them. They make the long hours, the constant hard work, the unending planning and executing worth it. All my students need is someone to listen to them, someone to believe in them, someone to tell them that they are worth something and that their opinion matters. City Year has blessed me with that opportunity. I am able to wake up every morning at obscenely early hours and saunter into work with a smile on my face because I know that what I am doing matters.
City Year’s methods are proven to help increase attendance in schools, decrease behavioral problems, and increase students’ grades with our 1:1 and small group intervention methods. This is because City Year is incredibly data driven and we track all the time spent with students and our intervention methods. That way, we can talk to other sites and trade best practices. Corps members receive training in how to effectively teach and tutor material that is imperative for students and we have the freedom to implement our methods in fun and creative ways that allow our students to understand that learning is fun and does not have to be monotonous or a chore. Corps members run before and after school clubs and tutoring for students and we also have lunch clubs. Not only do corps members aim to increase students’ educational opportunities by providing the necessary tools, City Year also focuses on community betterment via community events like block parties, game nights, parent engagement activities.
I could talk about City Year all day every day, and not just because of the work that I do, but also because of the people I have met. I came into City Year thinking I was going to impact people and change lives, but because of the opportunity I was fortunate enough to receive, my life is changed every. single. day. I learn something new from the people around me, I’m taught to breakdown social and economical barriers because of where I serve, and most importantly, I am finding myself. When I am older and I look back on my life, I can say with certainty that City Year will be my biggest accomplishment, and my most difficult endeavor in life.