The Greatest Gift

I serve because I believe that a child’s race, zip-code, or socioeconomic status should not determine the quality of their education. I serve because I believe that positive role models have the ability to empower our country’s young people. I serve because I believe that empowered young people can change the world. 

I serve because it is my turn to give back.

My name is Cecilia Di Caprio, and I am a City Year AmeriCorps member serving in a 7th grade classroom at Bruce Randolph Middle School in Denver, Colorado.


I slowly made my way through the holiday crowds filling the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport last night with a familiar feeling of excitement rushing through my body. I knew my parents, and possibly my younger brother, stood waiting for me at the entrance to baggage claim—and I walked with the excited anticipation of being able to greet them all with a welcome-home hug. This feeling of family and togetherness is what the holidays have always been about for me.

…And the stresses of holiday shopping, finding the perfect gifts for friends and family, planning the ultimate holiday party etc. etc.

I have always been a perfectionist, and often spend hours brainstorming ideas for the ultimate gift. I want to make sure any gift I give is not only practical, but also that it adequately reflects the personality of the person receiving the gift. But this year, I want the holiday season to mean more. I have found myself asking—what is the greatest gift that I can give to my students?

I want this gift to be one that transcends the bounds of this holiday season. I want it to stem from my year of service, but ideally this gift should last them a lifetime. Though many of students sit far behind grade level in math and reading, this gift needs to do more than simply improve their performance in the classroom.


What is the greatest gift that I can give my students?

I want to give them all the gift of empowerment.

I want my students to believe in themselves just as much as I believe in them. I want them to see how much potential they truly have. I want them to want more for not only themselves, but for their family and their community. I want my students to see themselves as agents of change.

My students can change the world. They have a resilience that inspires me everyday, and a spirit that pulls me through the tough times. They constantly amaze me. This year, I want to empower them to recognize their own potential. It is a gift that may not be as easy to deliver as a coffee-table book or new set of grilling equipment—seeing that a colorful bow and nice wrapping job probably won’t suffice. But, I believe that through my ability to act as a positive role model for my students, I am delivering to them this gift of empowerment. I believe that with my constant affirmation of their successes, and stable presence through their failures, I will begin to help them to see how much they can achieve—how much they, as empowered young people, will change the world.  

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