Each year, City Year Sacramento places 60-70 AmeriCorps members in some of Sacramento’s highest-need schools to serve students in grades 3-9. This year, many of our AmeriCorps members are now coming full circle and serving in schools where they were once students. One individual among them is Deveon Smith, a Fern Bacon Middle School alumnus who believes in giving back to his community and ensuring that students have the same opportunities that he had. You’ll often find Deveon chatting with his former teachers, laughing with his team and having conversations with students in order to ensure that they know the importance of graduating high school.
Deveon Smith, City Year Sacramento AmeriCorps member serving at Fern Bacon Middle School, his alma mater
“It makes me happy that I’m able to help kids like me open their minds and find the courage to explore different options.”
–Deveon Smith, AmeriCorps member
What does it mean to you to return to Fern Bacon as a City Year Sacramento AmeriCorps member?
Deveon Smith (DS): It’s very exciting. Having been a student here, it’s made it easy for me to empathize and put myself in the shoes of Fern Bacon’s students. It makes me happy that I can give them someone to count on and someone who understands the challenges they may be going through.
How do you plan on ensuring that your students have a positive educational experience at Fern Bacon?
DS: I want to model how to work with people in order to be successful in school. I’m a firm believer in practicing what I preach, and I believe that by working well with my team, I’ll show students how to work well with each other. I also think it’s important for them to know that the world isn’t pretty but that doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the world. I hope to ensure that students have a positive educational experience by helping them understand that completing high school will allow them to have more options in the future.
What’s it like working on a team?
DS: Working on a team has been great. I’ve encountered way more personalities than I thought I would. At first it was challenging because I wasn’t the most open person toward others, but now I’ve learned how to better communicate and work effectively with my team. Working with them also gives me the opportunity to gain different perspectives on how to handle situations that arise during service. It’s also been great having amazing leaders. Their coaching and mentoring has been invaluable and I try to model myself after them, work as hard as them, and make sure that they know they are appreciated.
What about being back at Fern Bacon makes you happy?
DS: I enjoy encouraging students to explore new perspectives and pathways. It also feels good to be here because I’ve known a few of the students here at Fern Bacon for many years. Neena* is one of the students I work with and I used to babysit her when she was little. It makes me feel good to be able to continue to support her and act as a big brother.
Deveon Smith, City Year Sacramento AmeriCorps member and Fern Bacon alumnus & Mr. McFall, Assistant Principal at Fern Bacon
“Hopefully some students will see themselves in him and hopefully they can see that if they can get through high school they’ll have open choices.” –Mr. McFall, Assistant Principal
What does it mean to you and Fern Bacon to have a former student return as a City Year Sacramento AmeriCorps member?
Mr. McFall (MM): First it made me feel old. It’s really rewarding to see a student come back to their community and serve. Especially someone who understands our culture and climate here at Fern Bacon.
What impact do you believe Deveon will have on Fern Bacon's students?
MM: I think he has the potential to have a profound impact because he [went here] and was literally in their seats. He can speak to how hard work can pay off and point them in the right direction because he’s already gone down that path.
How have you seen Deveon grow since he was a student and what do you remember about him?
MM: He’s literally grown and is now much taller than me. He’s got the same quirky personality but he’s matured. It’s fun to watch him talk to kids and walk students through situations he went through. It’s fun to see him help students navigate challenges and make sure they are successful in school.
When Deveon was a student, did you think he would be interested in giving back to Fern Bacon and his community?
MM: While I didn’t anticipate his coming back to Fern Bacon, I always looked at him and saw someone who was going to be successful. He’s always chosen to help people, so the fact that he’s still a caring person and giving back to his community doesn’t surprise me at all.
*name changed to protect student privacy