Story and photo by Jhanel Chew, AmeriCorps member serving on the Staples, Inc. team at Rogers Middle School

This January, the Staples, Inc. team was lucky enough to receive two mid-year AmeriCorps members, Sera Idoko (pictured, left) and Kelsey Coyne (right). I recently had a chance to interview them about their experiences and thoughts so far on City Year.

Jhanel Chew (JC): What are your impressions about City Year so far?

Sera Idoko (SI): I was nervous at first about joining the Staples team because it was already an established community. But everyone was very welcoming and willing to help us grow.  I feel a lot more secure going into the first week [of in-school service] knowing that I have people to help me.

Kelsey Coyne (KC): Senior corps [the group of second-year AmeriCorps members] has been so welcoming and they’re always coming up to me and have been so nice.

SI: The [first-year] corps members have also just walked up to us during lunchtime and introduced themselves. It’s nice that people can come up to [us] and understand that we’re new. I am super excited to be around people who are just as idealistic as I am.

KC: In a lot of other contexts, I feel like I’m coming with great ideas and people are like “that’s silly, we can’t do that,” but here [in City Year] I feel like I have a lot more support for my ideas.  Like when I brought up doing an improv club [for their extended day program], people said, “That’d be great! We did something like that last year, and it was awesome.”

KC: The world I envision is a place where everyone is tolerant and has equal access to things that they need to survive. [Students] are not getting equal education just because of where they were born and who they were born to, and that just doesn’t seem fair to me. I feel like everyone should have an opportunity to go to college. Some people think that’s unrealistic and you can’t have a perfect world where everyone’s equal and everyone’s tolerant. But the minute we start telling ourselves that’s never possible, we’re never going to work towards it. So I really appreciate being around people who are willing to say there’s a chance we’ll live in a world where everyone is equal.

JC: Do you think City Year is an answer to those students and why do you think that?

SI: I think City Year tries to be an answer to that. Obviously, it’s not perfect yet, and it’s not reaching every student yet, but once you start putting that energy out into the world, it has an effect on its own. There is no one kid who is below the help of City Year or is too unsalvageable.

KC: The thing that’s special about City Year is that it makes education more of a dialogue. City Year is more focused on talking to kids and finding ways to help them to learn. City Year gives kids an opportunity to present knowledge in a more interesting way for them through differentiated instruction.  

With their addition to the Staples, Inc. team, Sera and Kelsey are able to serve in two middle school classrooms which previously did not have direct access to City Year's supports in coursework, behavior, and attendance. Through tutoring, near-peer mentoring, and coaching from City Year, students will have an increased chance of success in and out of the classroom.  This will allow them to achieve greater academic success and build a brighter community. 

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