By Nelson Roland, AmeriCorps Member, Supported by Heinemann & Dartmouth Hitchcock, Serving at Henry Wilson Elementary School
I serve my country by serving the future of my country. I am an AmeriCorps Member with City Year New Hampshire and a soldier in the Massachusetts National Guard. As a member in the National Guard I serve as a multi-channel satellite transmissions operator/maintainer one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer. At City Year New Hampshire I volunteer at Henry Wilson Elementary School. I work specifically with Ms. Anna Stauble’s third grade classroom providing extra educational support and mentoring for students who are at risk of falling behind academically. This helps the administration promote a more positive, engaging, and productive environment within the school. Now both of these service positions require that I wear a full uniform when I am on duty. Neither one of them make me uncomfortable in the least. Due to a varied job history I’ve grown quite accustomed to wearing uniforms. The aspect that I find bizarre is the reaction that I receive from random strangers.
When people approach me while in my military uniform they thank me for my service to our country. I am very thankful and appreciative for their support. We live in a tumultuous world where threats are being made toward people in military uniforms from both foreign and domestic sources. The fact that someone takes the time to say that they appreciate the willingness it takes to voluntarily put on that uniform whether or not they completely agree with the all the decisions of our government is immensely encouraging. Now that I have had the privilege to put on the City Year uniform, a big part of me would like to see that same appreciation given to public servants who are often taken for granted; chief amongst that group are school teachers. I’ve seen students whose only sense of positive adult connection is in their school. I’ve seen students whose only chance to smile and play is at recess. I’ve met students whose only nutritionally balanced meal is in a school cafeteria. I’ve worked with students whose only opportunity to read a book is in a classroom. It is the teachers who are the ones accomplishing these amazing feats every day. In my humble opinion they deserve the utmost appreciation and recognition and yet they receive very little.
Truly dedicated teachers give themselves to their service by spending every waking moment discovering the best possible way to educate the young minds that they are responsible to develop. Serving in Henry Wilson Elementary School in Manchester, has solidified this truth in my mind. Serving with City Year has been monumental in helping to understand the true definition of service by teaching me that service can take any number of infinite forms.
One thing in common in both uniforms I get to wear proudly is a symbol that demonstrates the true spirit of service worn by both City Year and those who serve in the military. The rear facing flag is worn on the City Year uniform and the Army combat uniform. It does not only demonstrate patriotism but patriotism in action. Every belief and value that is represented in the American flag is put into action by those who wear this symbol. It demonstrates a willingness to run towards areas of need and serve. It is supported by a hope and a belief in the potential of our youth. This is a cornerstone belief here at City Year and in my personal life as well. Educators help shape the future of this country by molding and developing the leaders of tomorrow. While those who serve in our nation’s military deserve our appreciation and support, those who educate our children deserve the same level of gratitude every day for serving our youth and communities in need.
Thank you for your service,