My name is Dominique Smith and I served as a City Year AmeriCorps member from 2015-2016 at the James G. Blaine Middle School working with 4th grade students. I am a graduate of Penn State University, and currently serve as a Behavioral Coach at Belmont Charter School.
What made you join City Year?
I first learned about City Year as a 9th grade student at Samuel S Fels High School. I had just moved to Philadelphia and did not know anyone at the school. I started spending time with the City Year AmeriCorps members during lunch and soon joined their afterschool clubs. Later, I helped City Year put on a fashion show at my school. If it were not for the City Year AmeriCorps members, I wouldn’t have had the same experience in school. By the end of my senior year of high school, I knew that I wanted to do a City Year after college. In college, I researched City Year and learned more about the impact that they were making in the lives of inner city youth. I knew that I wanted to be a part of it.
What skills or experiences did you take away from your service year?
The two skills that stand out the most are the ability to problem solve at a moment’s notice, and classroom management. During my time as an AmeriCorps member, there were many unexpected issues or complications that arose and needed to have an immediate solution. It forced me to think clearly and make decisions that would resolve any issues that were placed before me. Also, City Year gave me more confidence in leading large groups of children in activities and managing their behavior in a classroom environment.
What do you value most about your year of service?
I value all of the relationships and connections I made with my students, City Year team, and the staff at James G. Blaine Middle School. I have already visited four times and I still keep in contact with my partner teachers. It was a tough year, but building those relationships made the year a little sweeter. I continue to visit the students that I tutored and mentored from time to time, because I want to maintain the relationships and let them know that I still care. The most rewarding part of my service year, was watching my students succeed in the school wide literacy competition. When my school took home first place, I was overjoyed.
How did City Year prepare you for this job and what are your future goals?
City Year gave me the experience to work in a school setting. I also had the opportunity to work with students who needed academic, behavioral, social, and emotional interventions. This helps in my work at Belmont Charter School where I work with 1st-3rd grade students to manage their behavior interventions. In the future, I would like to get my Master's Degree in social work to continue this work.
What advice would you give to a person thinking about applying to City Year?
I would tell them to do their research. They need to understand what the mission and values of City Year are and their role in helping achieve that mission. They should enter City Year with passion for service and a commitment to the work. This is not just another job; we are making an impact on the lives of thousands of students. This is not a job that will make you rich, but you will be rewarded by the success of your students.
Written by City Year Philadelphia AmeriCorps Member, Zakiyah Ingram serving at William D. Kelley K-8 School Team.