by Marquis Robinson, City Year Baton Rouge AmeriCorps Member ’18, ’19
My call to serve was brought on by a series of life events that changed the way I viewed education and the world around me. Growing up, I lived in Houston, Texas in an apartment with my hardworking, single mother and four brothers. Many of the schools I attended and communities I lived in mirrored the one that I serve in now, and while my schools didn’t have an abundance of resources, I did.
My two older brothers acted as my mentors and helped me navigate through the ups and downs of grade school. They were my heroes. Strong, smart and well-liked by all, I thought that they were invincible. Unfortunately, life moves fast and even the strongest people you know are not invincible. When I was 15 years old, my oldest brother was at the mall when he got into an altercation with someone from his school. The situation escalated and, before thinking, the boy stabbed my brother in the stomach.
He spent the next week in the hospital recovering from his injuries. Luckily, he was released the next week, but still had plenty of physical and emotional healing to do once he was home. After this traumatic experience, it was hard for him to get back into the everyday routine, and at the age of 17, he dropped out of school. His drop out is no reflection of his intelligence or strength, but rather how trauma of any kind can affect a young person’s life.
Less than a year later, my second oldest brother and best friend, was standing outside of a restaurant with a group of his friends when a boy that they knew from school instigated an argument. The argument intensified and the boy shot my brother at point blank range in the leg. The following 30 days my family and I spent almost every day in the hospital with my brother as he went through surgery after surgery and fought for his life. Thankfully, after 41 days in the hospital, my brother was released and a few days later, he crossed the stage at his high school graduation in a wheelchair.
Unfortunately, my story and my brothers’ stories are not unique. Every day, students around the country are faced with obstacles in their lives that go far beyond the classroom and seem impossible to get through. What I have learned is that the most important thing in life is a strong support system, especially as a young black male. It’s easy to act like we can get through anything on our own, and while that may be true, it can be easier with a mentor.
Mentorship is a two-way street. Through my brothers serving as my mentors throughout grade school, and me serving them in their most vulnerable times, I learned that a little support goes a long way. These experiences changed my view on education as I realized that even strong, intelligent and capable young people can benefit from proper emotional and social support. The reason that I was able to excel in school was because I had a solid support system behind me. I was able to find success where failure was likely to occur.
When I walk into the school where I serve each day and see students who are going through experiences just like mine, I know that the most powerful thing I can do for them is to be there for them and listen to them. Because of the experiences that I had while I was in high school, I know that my time with City Year is valuable and that each day that I spend supporting my students is one where I’m helping them realize their full potential in order to succeed.
The call to serve is not an easy one to fulfill; it is in fact one of the most difficult and selfless jobs there is. However, once I step foot into my school and speak to my students, all of whom I can relate to, I know that I am in the right place. From my partner teachers, to my fellow City Year AmeriCorps team members and, most importantly, my students, I know that I am giving support to an endless network of people while also receiving an entire support system back. Around the country there are students who need at least one person in their life that can brighten their days, and make them believe. To me, being that person is a beautiful thing, and that is the magic of City Year.
Marquis shared this story as a first-year City Year AmeriCorps member. His time as a mentor has continued on as a Team Leader with City Year Baton Rouge. Learn more about being a mentor and making a difference in a young person’s life.