By Ashley Gillenwater, AmeriCorps member serving on the Friends of Andrew Jackson High School Team.

Andrew Jackson Team

Gratitude is a practice. By practicing gratitude, we can train our minds to notice the positive things in our environment and in ourselves. For a year of service, having a grateful mindset is an asset. When we arrive to serve, we meet students who are at the intersection of poverty and policy—this work is difficult and tiring. Keeping our minds on the positive is a powerful tool we can use to transform our schools, our students, and ourselves. One way of getting into the mindset of gratitude is to keep a journal. By keeping a journal, we are able to reflect back on the small, everyday people or things that we truly appreciate. There are many things that I am grateful for that help push me when service becomes difficult.

I am thankful for the endless support City Year provides. There is truly nothing that the amazing staff will not do in order to help AmeriCorps members serve with excellence. Most of the staff have given a year of service themselves and truly understand the work we do and the challenges it presents. Their listening ears and advice are truly indispensable.

I am thankful for the team I serve with at Andrew Jackson High School. My team is made up of five other AmeriCorps members, our team leader, and our impact manager. Just over three months ago we were all total strangers. Now I see them every school day at 6:45 in the morning and serve alongside them until 4:45 in the afternoon. I confide in them about my frustrations and challenges, but the most powerful time we have is when we share our joys, ripples, and appreciates at the beginning and end of every service day.

I am thankful for the faculty and staff at Andrew Jackson High School—they have welcomed us into their home graciously. The teachers whose classrooms we serve in have truly embraced us as a part of their classroom.

I am grateful for the students that I am able to serve at Andrew Jackson High School. The students are why all of us are serving in Jacksonville. Through my interactions with the students, I hope I can impact them in even a small way. Their energy, humor, motivation, triumphs, and even their challenges motivate me to continue serving. 

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