By Brandi Langston, Corps Member, The Walmart Team at Stevenson Middle School

My team, the Walmart Team at Stevenson Middle School, strives to build strong relationships with our students. To help us, we follow one of City Year’s guiding principles: Putting Idealism to Work #53 – Set high expectations for yourself and others. We should never set low standards and expectations for our students because they often respond to exactly the expectation that is being set. As mentors and role models, we must hold our students accountable and push them to reach their potential. By doing so, we not only build a foundation of trust, but also set them up to succeed.

Rachel* and my teammate Sara’s relationship is an example. Rachel is an eighth grade student at Stevenson. Like most girls her age, she is obsessed with her cell phone and her image. One thing that was not on the top of her priority list was school. Rachel was a loud disruptive student who never turned in an assignment. One day her teacher, Ms. Reahn, pulled her aside and told her, “I see so much potential but in order to make it to high school you have to pass this class. How about you start going to City Year’s after-school program?” Ms. Reahn reached out to her corps member, Sara McDonald, to help her get back on track.

Sara knew that working with this student would not be easy. To get through to Rachel, she decided to have a blunt conversation with her about the realities of high school life and told her that she was in jeopardy of being placed in special education classes because of her lack luster attitude towards her education. This was an eye opener for Rachel.

Sara encouraged her to come to our after-school program where she dedicated a good amount of her time providing Rachel with one on one intervention and homework help. She also pushed her to complete her missing assignments before holiday break. After just a short amount of time, Rachel went from turning in no classwork or homework to submitting “A” quality work. Sara was moved by her student’s major success and so was Rachel! “I do enjoy getting better grades. I even got a letter from the principal saying that since I brought my grades up, I can now attend all of the 8th grade activities. I was so excited and proud of myself.”

Rachel continues to attend the after-school program. She is very attentive and always ready to receive help, which is a reflection of the relationship that she and Sarah have built over the past couple of months. “Ms. McDonald does not only help me with my school work, but she is also like the big sister I never had.”

*Student’s name has been changed.

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