Written by Ashley Dunbar, corps member proudly serving on the Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation team at Winbourne Elementary School. 

July 28, 2014. Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Temperature: 90 degrees, feels like: 900 degrees. I’m outside doing jumping jacks. I’m 1,100 miles away from home. What have I gotten myself into?

I left Pittsburgh knowing the next ten months were going to be the most challenging of my life thus far, but I was determined to make a difference. I had read so many inspiring stories of corps members before me that I knew- no matter how hard things got- the struggle would be worth it in the end.

Education has been such a vital part of my life, that I cannot fathom not having that right provided to me through absolutely every resource possible. Though I knew I would be faced with challenges that nobody can fully prepare for, my few short weeks in Baton Rouge have truly opened my eyes to educational inequality and the importance of early educational intervention.  

As a first-generation college student in my family, I have witnessed firsthand the impact that an education can have on someone’s life. My education has enabled me to reach my fullest potential, and allows me to continuously strive to be better. City Year is now giving me the opportunity to lead by example, and be a role model to these children by showing them that they can, too, reach their full potential and go on to fulfill their biggest dreams.

Some days I feel defeated. How can I, one person, serve so many students with such individualized needs? But there my students are, each and every morning, with smiling faces and outstretched hands, giving me the motivation to be the best role model that I can be for them. I may not be able to impact each and every child during my ten months of service, but if I can make a difference in just one child’s life, I will have succeeded. This is my City Year, and I am here to #makebetterhappen. 

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