Written by Laureanna Crump, Second Year AmeriCorps member proudly serving on the Irene W. and C. B. Pennington Foundation team at Kenilworth Science and Technology School.
“Don’t let the unknown standards of others limit the possibility for your success. For example, if your whole presentation away from headquarters depends on having a projector and you are told they are “99% sure” they are going to have one for you, bring a projector anyway (and an extension cord and speakers).”
During my first AmeriCorps year, my Impact Manager handed me a form to complete before our initial one-on-one meeting. One of the first questions read, “What PITW is currently guiding your service?” I had only heard a handful of the 183 Putting Idealism To Work's (PITW) during Basic Training Academy, so I had to refer back to my Idealist Handbook to choose a PITW that resonated with me the most. PITW #9 stood out to me for one reason: the only person I can count on is myself, and in order to be truly successful, I have to make it happen. I carried this idea with me for eight of the ten service months. You see, I had a fixed mindset when I originally joined the Corps. My list of personal tribulations was quite extensive and I was enrolled in the last semester of my undergraduate studies. I truly believed that I had no one; consequently, becoming acclimated to City Year was a challenge, so I opted to keep to myself. I desperately wanted to keep my personal and professional lives separate. The only people that I didn’t have problems building relationships with were the students, staff, and administration at Kenilworth. I worked diligently to help my 6th graders and the Kenilworth staff, but I didn’t genuinely bond with my team until spring break. Upon returning back to school, I noticed that we worked better as a whole and I couldn’t help but wonder what the team could have accomplished if I didn’t push back as much during those first eight months.
I made the decision to return for a second year because of my students. They’ve taught me more about myself in those ten months than I could teach them about simple algebraic manipulations. PITW #9 was the only PITW I’ve ever put on my one-on-one forms. I believe its value to me will never change; however, my interpretation of it has evolved. I entered my second year confident in my ability to support Kenilworth because I was good at my job, but that was no longer good enough for me. Yes, I did my job well but did I really serve with excellence? Did I really exemplify Level Five Leadership? Was I a valuable asset to the team or just dead weight? Was I actually practicing the things I nagged my students about? I had to acknowledge that I served my first year with a closed mindset and then identify ways to transform it into an open mindset.
I believe the idea of “creating your own environment for success” has several layers. When you are a part of a team, you represent the team even when you are alone. Instead of contemplating how to create a successful environment for myself and my students, I now explore different ideas that I can use to create a successful environment for my current team; subsequently, contributing to a successful environment for the entire Kenilworth family. When they succeed, I succeed. PITW #9 is something I use to remind myself that I am serving for a purpose greater than myself and that even the squishy things matter. Doing one squishy thing for your fellow City Year AmeriCorps member could brighten up his or her day so much so that that AmeriCorps member may decide to pass it on to a child, a staff member at school, a random person on the street, or even another AmeriCorps member. Creating a work environment that’s conducive for success can be as simple as leaving your personal quarrels at home. My worst days in City Year have always been the days I brought in personal drama, and I’ve noticed that dealing with the workload City Year gives you is a lot easier to manage with a clear head.