Written by Nolan Benson, City Year Milwaukee AmeriCorps member.
I scribbled my last word of the final question of my epistemology exam, and after a short pause, I penned a period to finish the sentence. I flipped over the last page, walked up to the front, and shook my professor's hand as I handed him the completed exam. As I stepped outside of Lalumiere Language Hall, I choked back tears that represented a myriad of emotions coursing through my chest. The pride, the bittersweet pride tainted because I knew I would not be returning to Marquette come fall. About a week later, I walked across the stage on graduation day. After the celebration ended, I contemplated what to do next. I searched for organizations and companies that would hire a writer, but the business and advertisement writing position that I found did not call to me, mostly because I am a creative person at heart. I became discouraged by the job market, that is until I came across City Year. I studied marginalization and systematic oppression in a few of my classes at Marquette, but I did not just want to read about the gross discrepancies in books; I wanted to help fight against them. City Year gives me the opportunity to gain experience in a classroom (not an easy thing to gain without an education degree or teaching licensure program) while serving the scholars in the city I've lived in my whole life. I serve to bring out the potential in young people, to teach the value of perseverance, and to aid in the fight against systematic injustice, particularly the education gap in Milwaukee between white and minority students.
This year, I hope to start my own poetry program at Carver Academy, a program they do not currently offer. As the English Language Arts (ELA) coordinator on my team, I want to provide all scholars that we work with at Carver with tools to become writers themselves. I do not expect every scholar to pursue a writing degree in college like I did, but I do hope that teaching creative writing skills will help them express themselves in a positive and productive manner. To be a writer, we must read and understand the other great writers that came before us. I hope that by instilling our scholars with the motivation to write on their own that they will also begin to work hard at other ELA skills, such as vocabulary and syntax. I have a passion for ELA that goes beyond City Year. As an aspiring writer myself, I want to use that passion to spread a positive mindset around English to not only the scholars I work directly with, but to all the wonderful scholars at Carver Academy.