Written by Caroline Watkins, proud AmeriCorps member serving on the Capital Area United Way team at Capitol Middle School.

This is my second to last blog post as a City Year corps member, and while reflecting on what I could say at the end of my service, I realized that I’m beginning to experience a lot of “second to lasts”.  We at Capitol Middle School only have one AttenDANCE left, one VIP Room initiative for our students, one team day… gosh, counting down has never been so difficult.  In an effort to make these second to lasts count, our team has rallied around a plan to finish the year strong through concrete goals and projects serving both our students and the school as a whole.  For the women of Capitol – some of the grooviest females on the planet – finishing strong means more than just another round of hallway posters.  I asked them to tell me what their intentions are for these final days in middle school, and was not at all shocked to find their hearts in every word. 

“I came to CY and conquered. I believe that I came to City Year and Capitol Middle School to assist 36 individuals become better readers and writers in their 6th grade English Language Arts class. I also am walking away from this experience with 11 awesome best friends! Finishing strong for me is continuing to be there for my kids and my wonderful team.” – Mo Bouchard

“To me, finishing this year on a strong note would definitely consist of letting my students know that I love them and believe in them-- no matter how much I scold them or push them to do work instead of playing outside. I want my students to know that I have confidence that they can each accomplish whatever they desire without me standing over their shoulders. It also means that I would have a firm grasp on how this experience has affected me, and how I can build on top of everything I have learned from being at my school and with my students. They have each taught me about myself and about what I want to accomplish.” – Jasmine Thomas

My students have been the best part and the hardest part of working with City Year. They are young, strong willed and capable children, but I worry that their communities haven't provided the necessary skills to succeed in life. Before I leave City Year, I want my students to be aware of at least this: we can't control the actions of others, only how we respond to them. Everyday I hear students say they don't like this, her, that and the other. I do my best to sympathize, but for the most part there is nothing that I can do except tell them to ignore it. For most students that is a very hard thing, but I'm hoping that using personal experience and continuing to practice what I preach will have a lasting imprint on their lives. Even if they don't remember me, I really hope they remember that they have the power, and they are in control.” – Adejuwon Adeyemo

“I would like to leave this year knowing that my students have eveolved and are constantly still evolving into the young women and men all 12 corps members have worked so hard to develop. Some of my favorite ‘joys’ to hear at final circle at the end of each day are the stories about students coming up to corps members to boast about a good decision they have made, or students voluntarily taking part in rational thinking as opposed to acting on impulse. It's little moments like that that really make this job worth it.” – Maliah Mathis

“Before leaving City Year, I want to make sure that my students have the resources they need to continue growing and learning over the summer and beyond. I also want to take the time to reflect with each of my students on what they have learned this year and what they think they need to improve on. And, then I guess I just want tie the ends of the relationships I have built with my students over the school year so there isn't any confusing or unanswered questions when I leave Capitol Middle School.” – Jaclyn Martin

“To be honest, this is a hard question to answer. I want to accomplish a lot! I want to stress the importance of math, I want to stress the importance of grades, I want to stress the importance of not getting suspended, I even want to stress the importance of test taking. Then it occurred to me: my students are in eighth grade and they are making a huge transition into high school, what better way to prepare them than to write a book of tips on how to survive and make the most out of high school. I have daily conversations with them about high school and about what they want to do with their lives, but I'm not sure that our conversations stick. I think if I write the tips for them, and we read and analyze them together, it will become more realistic.  For the time being, I am going to have small sessions with my girls and boys about what they want to accomplish before their school year is over and focus on that.  As the saying goes: Students First, Collaboration Always!” – Alainna Cox

“This year has been an adventurous one, and my goal for the rest of the school year is to make the most of it!  I have been surrounded by teammates, teachers, and students who make me laugh every day.  I want to keep this positive attitude and continue to encourage students to strive for their goals.  Through completing student reflections with my academic, behavior, and attendance focus list students, I will help them recognize the achievements they have made this school year, and set goals for them as they head to high school!” – Emily Hinshaw

“Finishing strong means leaving the school with the knowledge that I have done all I can to make the school a better place.  It also means to prepare my students for high school, which they will enter next year.  I plan on continuing to introduce new authors to them and exploring the world of literature together.  Finally, I will focus on building their confidence as life-long learners with increasingly active lessons.” – Becky Livingston

“Coming to the end of my year as team leader to eleven bright, strong leaders, I'm at a loss. My team put into this year exactly what they wanted to get back out, and in the end they have moved mountains. Working in middle school is difficult due to the maturing students who are trying to figure out themselves, their schools, their friends, their lives. To live through middle school once is a feat, but to work so closely with these students and witness middle school the second time around takes humans with big hearts and tough skin. My team has stood with the middle schoolers all year long, and in doing so has made finishing strong easier for me.” – Juliette Rocheleau

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