By Cat Nwachukwu, corps member serving on the CSX team
“I don’t like school. I never have.” These were among the first words that Tyler* said to me the very first day of service at The English High School.
I didn’t how to respond. Flustered, I managed to say, “Well I hope that City Year will change your mind about that!”
I sat with Tyler every day at lunch thereafter. We had many conversations about his dislike for school, but we also talked a lot about what he liked: making beats, skateboarding, and listening to music. He lit up when he talked about his hobbies, but when I was permanently assigned to serve in two of his classes a few weeks later, I realized he didn’t bring the same candor into the classroom. Most of the time he refused to complete assignments or put his head down during tests. Rarely, he would accept my or another corps member’s assistance on homework.
When he did submit work, it was exceptional. I was confused why he wasn’t doing the work if he understood the assignments.
By the end of the first term, several of my teammates and I built strong relationships with Tyler. One corps member enthusiastically tutored him in algebra, another swapped music with him, and we all positively reinforced his efforts on days he was productive in class. When he received his report card, Tyler was downtrodden. He’d received low or failing marks in almost all of his classes. His phrase changed from “I don’t like school” to “I’m not good at school.”
The second term started. With lot of self-determination, and through the support and encouragement of my teammates, Tyler started putting in more effort. He took the initiative to speak with all of his teachers and tell them that he was trying and planned to do better this term. Teachers were extremely pleased to see this new side of Tyler.
We planned with his parents, and constantly reminded Tyler that he had the skills to succeed. In just a few short months, we have seen Tyler grow into not only a stronger student, but a more confident individual. He completes assignments without prompting and he participates in class. He went from failing most of his classes, to passing almost all of them. I feel lucky to have been a part of that process.
*Name changed to protect student privacy
About the author: Cat Nwachukwu is 2013-2014 corps member serving on the CSX team at The English High School team in Jamaica Plain.