Today's guest blogger is Heidi Schibuk. Heidi is the Social-Emotional Learning Project Leader, serving her second year with City Year New York. Last year she served on the CSX Team at M.S. 302 in the South Bronx. 

As a psychology undergraduate, I struggled to understand the potential for research to translate into real world change. Craving the chance to find meaning in my research interests, I decided to put off graduate school. I went to work as a City Year AmeriCorps Member in a middle school in the South Bronx where, for the first time, I realized the full weight of what it means to cope with adversity.  

I tutored and mentored students for whom stress, trauma, and poor health were a part of daily life. Looking back, I could never have prepared myself to understand the degree to which poverty hinders a child’s ability to learn. However, I found hope in my work; for, I could see how the consistent and caring support provided by my team made a difference in the livelihood and daily functioning of the school.   

“Hope is a state of the mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.” - Vaclav Havel 

I remember a student named Leandra who experienced immense difficulty inside and out of the classroom. The relationship I developed with Leandra and her mother came to be a defining part of my corps year. It was difficult for me to leave her; I had become her person – her trusted advocate. However, when the time came to let go, the sense of hope remained. My time working with Leandra was not perfect, but it was impactful.  

As the Social-Emotional Learning Project Leader I see the challenges our AmeriCorps members face and the kind of impact they are able to make anyway. City Year is one of many organizations working to change the negative trajectory of social-emotional health in high-need urban schools. 

The choice to postpone graduate school and commit myself to two years of full-time service with City Year New York was the best decision I have ever made. In the fall, I will be attending Fordham University as a Counseling Psychology doctoral student. I hope to dedicate my doctoral work to understanding how mindfulness may support the treatment of traumatic stress and promote the social-emotional and academic development of students. 

My education and experiences have taught me that we cannot always eliminate adversity, but we can temper it by building resilience. I want to be at Fordham because it is an institution committed to fighting the same fight of social justice for all. We live in a complicated world where societal problems have no clear solutions. But, my experiences demonstrate that there is hope for change.

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