Above, before and after I received my official uniform pieces and my official City Year nametag
When I first arrived at the City Year office in Milwaukee, I was greeted by smiling faces and warm hellos. I knew nothing about anyone except for everyone’s name because all of the staff members had their snazzy nametags with the City Year logo. I instantly wanted one. I think it is pretty funny how of all the things that I could choose to reflect on, I would choose such a simple thing like the nametag. The truth is that this little nametag has come to represent me in so many ways, more than just my first and last name.
On the David & Julia Uihlein Charitable Foundation team, I am known as that “one person” who struggles, like really struggles, with remembering names. I am constantly forgetting other team member’s names. Mind you, I have a close connection with all my team members. I trust them all and value the hard work they put in to their year of service and vice versa. Yet for the life of me, I cannot keep their names straight. For example, I always seem to confuse Liz and Kay together. It’s embarrassingly bad because neither of them look alike in any way. Still, I look them straight in the eye and call them by each other’s names. And the only thing that I can tell them is that I get 3-letter names mixed up. As bad as it all may seem, it has become a little inside joke that I will eventually mistake someone’s name. And everytime I’m having a hard day during my service, I can look down to my right side and smile at my nametag because it reminds me of all the funny moments where I have awkwardly called somebody by the wrong name.
My nametag doesn’t only remind of the painfully weird moments I have had with my other corps members, but also of the shining ones. I am talking about the moments when I know that I am making a difference at my school. This all has to do with one of my students. This student always talked in class, never paid attention, or listened to directions. After a few months of gaining his trust by consistently helping him with his homework, we finally began to grow a small connection. This included taking him out of class in the mornings to get some water from the bubblers. With his improved behavior, I did what any other good City Year corps member would do: make a positive phone call home.
The phone call itself was nothing special. My student's mother did not seem overly excited about or too negative when I told her that her son was behaving better and that his math scores were improving. I never told my student that I called his mother. So, to me, it seemed like it made no difference.
The next Monday, he came into the school playground with a new skateboard. We figured out together that he got the skateboard because of the phone call home. I was just as surprised as he was.
Since then, he continued to improve and we began to develop a much stronger student-mentor bond. Two weeks later, during one of our morning bubbler runs, he asked me if he could have the temporary nametag I had at the start of the year. The reason was because he “want[s] to be like Mr. Carlos." How could I not say yes?!
All in all, I can always look down to my right and feel proud of all that I have accomplished so far with this little pin. Through all of the long, hard service days, I know that this nametag is mine. Short of losing this nametag or breaking it, it will be there to remind me that I am making a difference. Whether that is an embarrassing or meaningful experience, I will proudly serve as a City Year AmeriCorps member at the David & Julia Uihlein Charitable Foundation Team at Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School.
Written by Carlos Yugar, serving on the David & Julia Uihlein Charitable Foundation Team at Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School