Read below for reflections on finding her passion for service by Emily Perkins, City Year Cleveland Alumni ‘13, ‘14 and Program Manager at City Year Cleveland in East Technical High School. City Year has been in East Technical High School for four years and seen many gains in students and the school overall including:

  • the overall student course passing rate has gone from 60% to 90%. 
  • the average GPA has gone from 1.85 to 2.76. 
  • the graduation rate has improved from 39% to 50%.
  • City Year students showed an average of double the growth on standardized tests over the course of last year than their peers.
  • the average ADA for City Year students is 5 percentage points higher than the average ADA for the school. 

Ever had a job you hated? I mean really, really hated. I mean hated enough that you quit, moved halfway around the world to Australia, and started working on a cattle farm in the middle of nowhere in order make a change in your life.

No? Just me? Well, that’s what happened to me after I started working at an engineering firm the year after I graduated college. Although I had graduated with an engineering degree, I soon realized that it was not going to be a career passion that I could sustain and be happy in. Long story short, after Australia and the cattle farm I returned to the United States and was determined that the next job I had was going to be something I truly cared about. Enter City Year. Ten months to work with children in schools? I was immediately sold on the mission and excited to do my part to help students succeed. 

I knew on day one as an AmeriCorps member that ten months would never be enough. In fact I knew on day one that ten years would never be enough. So, how is it that you turn a ten month Americorps opportunity into a lifelong career you ask? I started by throwing myself into my job as an AmeriCorps member 100% and returning for a second year as a Team Leader in that same school. I knew right away that I wanted my work with City Year and my students to be a lifelong journey and became a Program Manager after I graduated as an AmeriCorps member. 

Now here I sit, Program Manager in the same school that I started my City Year journey in. I look in the hall and see 9th graders doing all the same things to my new team that their predecessors did to me. 

I sit back and laugh to myself as I watch my team making the same silly mistakes, having the same powerful realizations, and experiencing the same triumphs that I did two year ago. A City Year is a beautiful thing, full of ups and downs, good times and bad. I am not the same person I was on that first day as I made my strategic plan to move up. I’m more; I’m City Year.

I do it for me, I do it for my team, I do it for my school community, and above all else I do it for my 9th graders, now 11th graders, who are going to graduate high school and carry with them the belief that they can do and be anything. I do it for students like Kyla who I worked with as a ninth grader and is now in the honors class as an 11th grader this year. I've seen her grow into a confident young woman, as certain of her own bright future everyday as she is of her excellent high kick while leading the cheerleading team. Students like her make me sure the career change was the right decision and I’m excited to continue my journey with City Year!

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