By Christina Pineda, AmeriCorps Member serving at the UCLA Community School
As an idealistic and vision-driven organization, City Year thrives in environments filled with like-minded individuals who are open to collaboration. One such dynamic, collaborative individual is UCLA Community School Assistant Principal Queena Kim.
UCLA Community School has partnered with City Year L.A. since the school’s inception. Yet Ms. Kim has been with involved with UCLA-CS even longer: while working as a 4th grade teacher at nearby Hoover Elementary School, Ms. Kim helped draft the proposal for the pilot school that came to
be UCLA-CS. At the time, pilot schools were a new concept within the Los Angeles area aimed at reducing over-crowded public schools. Accordingly, UCLA-CS aimed to redirect students from over-crowded and distant schools to a school within the community, tailored to the community.
When the UCLA-CS opened its doors in 2009, Ms. Kim – alongside City Year L.A.—welcomed 340 students. Since then, UCLA-CS’ student population has grown to over a thousand students and Ms. Kim is now the school’s proud Assistant Principal.
Although much has changed, one thing has remained constant: City Year L.A.’s unwavering presence as part of the support UCLA-CS provides its students. Assistant Principal Kim credits City Year with helping create a positive school climate as epitomized by AmeriCorps members’ warm reception of student during twice weekly “power greetings.” She also notes that students who have trouble in class frequently have trouble with their peers too — and benefit from having near-peer role models like AmeriCorps members to confide in.
For Ms. Kim, the belief in the power of young people is one of City Year L.A.’s strengths. She never has to worry about the quality of AmeriCorps members, as City Year L.A. always “picks people to fit the vision.” The varied life experiences AmeriCorps members bring to their service is also beneficial for students, as it provides students with a more diverse perspective of future possibilities.
Students aren’t the only beneficiaries of City Year —Ms. Kim rightly believes that this year of service will change AmeriCorps members’ lives for the better.