By Hasana Abdul-Quadir
AmeriCorps member on the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative team serving at Cesar Chavez PCS
A year ago today, I could not have imagined I would be living across the country from where I grew up. I graduated in 2015 from Arizona State University with a degree in Family and Human Development. Like many college students, I found it challenging to pinpoint a career I felt passionate about. As I experimented with majors and potential jobs, I considered my interests and what opportunity to pursue next. Right now, that opportunity is City Year.
After spending a summer leading a group of high school students through the country of Jordan with the Council on International Education and Exchange (CIEE), I realized that I valued being a mentor to younger people 一 perhaps not as a formal career, but at least for a period of time. This led me to search online for gap year programs that would give me time to decide what to study in graduate school. By chance, I happened upon City Year’s website almost in passing. As I read about the program, I saw that it would be an opportunity to invest in our nation’s youth while moving forward with my personal aspirations. I submitted my application only a few days later.
Right away, I noticed City Year’s thoroughness and professionalism. From written ideals (called ‘PITWs, or ‘Putting Idealism to Work’), to physical training (PT), to in-school service, to career development, to community relationship-building, I was wholly impressed at the detail with which this organization was developed. I further marveled at the fact that the standards and ideals preached during training were actually implemented regularly throughout City Year activities.
A week after my arrival to DC, we jumped right into training and service. Now, after having worked at a middle school for the past few months, I find it hard to describe my role as a City Year AmeriCorps member. School-to-school and day-to-day, the task of a City Year (yes, we use that term as a noun to refer to ourselves) varies. My most basic responsibilities are power greeting students in the morning with my team, following my sixth grade cohort to all their classes, pulling out small groups of students and tutoring them in math and English, facilitating lunch clubs to encourage positive behavior, and leading an afterschool art club.
Every day, my fellow AmeriCorps members and I are tested with new challenges that push us to grow. They range from dealing with student behavioral issues, to implementing new procedures, to effectively collaborating with school staff. Keeping it all in perspective is the key to overcoming these obstacles. We recognize the purpose of the work we do: to guide our students on a path to success.
Halfway into our service year now, City Year has found ways to tap into all my emotions. Right now, I feel excited -- excited because my students have warmed up to me, and because I cannot wait to see their progress in their subjects as time continues. And definitely, I am excited for the bonds I hope will extend far beyond the end of the year. It will take time to reach these goals, I know, but I am ready to do the work and am hopeful about the outcome. The City Year pledge sums up my goals well: I will do my best to make a difference in the lives of others, and I will strive to build a stronger community, nation, and world for all of us.
I’ll wave my red jacket to that.