City Year. Yes, I do realize that I made a sentence out of a proper noun because it is only fitting for such an impactful, stress-inducing year of service. There are many different challenges that individuals face when committing to a year of service, but our team members’ challenges seem to stem from our team’s size.

Actually, working on any team can pose a challenge. However, to make things even more fun, let’s compile 15 people, from 14 different cities in 8 states and 1 who spent the majority of his life in another country, with vast differences in educational experiences and expertise, and voilà. What you end up with is our Diplomas Now City Year AmeriCorps Members at Rhodes Middle School. Talk about diversity!

Despite our many superficial differences, one thing that we did have in common, however, was our passion for education reform. Anyone who takes the time to fill out a City Year application displays a basic interest in improving our education system. But our interests in the education system go much deeper than basic. In fact, you could almost call us reformists. We all hit the ground running and were excited to begin working with our students. Though we knew the work we did would only cause a gradual change, we were ready to #MakeBetterHappen. Unfortunately, things did not work out the way we hoped. There was a world of unseen team building activities that would first need to be completed before we could even dream of working with our own focus list students. And I’m not sure what comes to mind when you hear that you will be working on a team with other like-minded passionate individuals, but the reality of that can sometimes become daunting.

The adage, “the bigger they are, the harder they fall,” was a reality for our team, from the outset. Our team’s large size brings, with it, multiple dynamics. Don’t get me wrong. The Rhodes team consists of amazing visionaries along with high-achievers. However, these wonderful pluses can also be viewed as deltas. At the beginning, our team suffered from unrealistic goals and strict expectations. An outsider looking in would most likely have predicted that the impact potential for Rhodes’ year of service was limitless. It would just taking some adjusting to our team’s dynamic personalities before we could move forward with our team’s overarching goal in mind: “Students First, Collaboration Always”.

Written By: Ahimsa Philpott and Gilbert Nwaopara, Diplomas Now City Year AmeriCorps Members at Rhodes Middle School.

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