Today's blog is brought to you by Sarah Katz, Team Leader of the Comcast Team at Jean Ribault Middle School, who shares why she wears her red jacket. 

See that girl pointing at you with the big cheesy grin in that bright red jacket? That’s me and I am hoping that this post finds you with a smile on your face and a heart full of grace! My name is Sarah Katz and I proudly serve as the Senior AmeriCorps Team Leader in a 6th and 8th grade Math classroom at Jean Ribault Middle School. Some of you may be wondering, “What makes this young lady a ‘Senior’ AmeriCorps Team Leader?” Well, this just means that I have done this once before and I know a thing or two about what all these people in red jackets do from day to day.

Just to give you some context to who I am and why I decided to do a year of service, I would like to give you a small introduction to me. I am a 23-year-old college graduate from the Keystone State of Pennsylvania. I grew up in the western Philadelphia suburbs where I first heard about City Year. I graduated in 2014 from Millersville University with a degree in Sociology with a Criminology Concentration, which is part of the reason I decided that City Year was the type of service I was looking for. Many of the stories and statistics about crime that flooded my textbooks during college stemmed from inequalities, in particular within the education system. I decided that if the Criminal Justice system is the place for me, that I would first like to be preventative and do my best to help students who are faced with similar inequalities in communities that are affected by crime the most. This brought me to my first year of service.

Photo of Sarah's team from last year


That second picture that you see, is my school team from this past year. I figured it would not be right for me to introduce myself without giving you a good idea of what I have done and what I hope to do in the future. I am one of few Senior AmeriCorps Members that went back to the same school for a second year. Although I am working with new incoming students and a different partner teacher I was welcomed with many hugs and smiling faces. Because I was privileged enough to be placed back at Jean Ribault Middle school and I already had existing relationships with last year’s 6th and 7th grade students, I was able to start this school year by checking in on my previous ‘Starfish’ student. At City Year, we refer to a student as a "Starfish" if we had the opportunity to work closely with them and were able to make great strides with and build strong mentor relationships with them during the school year. These students are usually on one of our focus lists for either Attendance, Behavior, or Course Performance and show growth from our work together. Sam was on my Behavior list and one of my starfish students. 

I worked with Sam and a few other students during lunch to work on how they could better manage their behavior and emotions. Sam's biggest struggle was keeping his hands to himself. When we would walk down to lunch I would have to put Sam to the back of the line so he would not disrupt other students. We would talk about ways to keep his hands busy so that he would not be tempted to bother his classmates so that they would all be able to walk down to lunch quickly and peacefully. By the spring, Sam no longer needed to be pulled to the back of the line with me and was able to better express his feelings to his classmates with his words. When I saw him again at the beginning of this school year he told me that he was planning on "Only receiving one referral this year!". This made me laugh and inform him that it was possible to end the year with none, but his positive attitude and determination to stay out of trouble was great to see. 

Photo of the JRMS team from Opening Day

I look forward to what this year has to offer as well as sharing more stories of this new experience as a Senior AmeriCorps Member!

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