Written by Colleen Morgan, Senior AmeriCorps Member serving on the Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation Team at Kenilworth Science and Technology School

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I have no doubt that Charles Dickens wrote these words while reminiscing on his middle school days. When I look back to my sixth, seventh, and eighth grade years, I cringe. None of my clothes matched, my hair was awkward, and all my friends were also my mortal enemies. I hadn’t quite figured out life. Each day was about self-discovery. I didn’t know it then. I didn’t really know it until August 2016 when I walked down the hall of Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School, where I would begin my second year of service.

When I signed up to do a second year with City Year as a Team Leader, I was nervous. My first service year was filled with students, spending all day in classrooms and in interventions. I would go to recess and sometimes even to lunch with my students. My year revolved around them. I knew coming back for a second year would be different. I wasn’t sure how much time I would get with students. I didn’t know if I would ever play a pick-up basketball game again.

Every day, I watch as students fill the hallways at Kenilworth. Each week, kids come to school a little bit taller and wiser. They engage in awkward yet very meaningful conversations. Bathroom breaks become epidemics and gym class becomes the battleground for all glory until tomorrow. These students bring life into the hallways. My days are filled with laughter and occasionally tears from the middle school drama circulating through the tabloids of passed notes. I see students all day. They pop in and out of the City Year room as the classes rotate through. My expectations for my second year have been shattered. How could I have been so worried?

This year my favorite time of day is around 1:15. The bell rings and all of 8th grade runs to lunch to scarf down a meal and get to recess. But about eight kids linger towards the back of the crowd and eventually land in the City Year room. This is our lunch crew. They usually all have big smiles and want to play on the chalkboards and do a few math problems with Ms. Kelsey. A few of them will ask Ms. Hannah about ELA and how to determine if the short story from class is written in third person omniscient or limited. These students make my day consistently. 

This second year of service is hard. There are so many built up expectations from the year before. There are so many expectations on paper for the year ahead. The service seems different when you talk about it, but when you are in the City Year room at school, it is all is the same as the year before. It’s about these students. They make City Year the “best of times,” so there never has to be the “worst of times.”

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