Written by Ashley Dunbar, proud AmeriCorps member serving on the Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation team at Winbourne Elementary School.

As my last week as a City Year Corps Member closes, it’s only right that my last blog post is a reflection on my year of service. Ten months ago, I embarked on this adventure not knowing how much it would change my life. The challenges and triumphs that I’ve faced this year have, without a doubt, allowed me to not only grow as a person but as a leader and educator.

To say that this year has been challenging would be an understatement.  Learning to accept that I wouldn’t always know how to handle a given situation or immediately know how to best serve my students, was something that took months to get used to. Collaborating with others, delegating work, and asking for help from my teammates and team leadership when I needed it (and being able to helpfully reciprocate that if someone asked the same of me) was easily the most challenging and important aspect of my service year.

Though this year has been hard, the positive things that I am taking away from it far outweigh all of the challenges. The feeling you get seeing a student’s face light up when they realize they have improved one or more benchmark levels throughout the year is almost incomparable. Watching a family break down in tears of joy and thank you for helping to rebuild their home, makes your heart beat out of your chest. Wearing your Red Jacket around town and getting “thank yous” from people you have never spoken to before, instills a sense of pride that can only be felt when you know what you are giving back to those people and the community you serve.

It takes a village. Without the constant support of my team and leadership, all of the success I’ve had this year would not have been possible. Learning to work side by side with such a diverse group of individuals has taught me that everyone has something to give, and that everyone can be great because everyone can serve.

My year of service has been the most rewarding and unique experience in my life, thus far. The things that I’ve learned and the people that I’ve met will all continue to shape my growth as a person for years to come. I gave a year, I changed the world, I made better happen. 

The 2014-2015 Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation team of WInbourne Elementary School.

A memorable day of City Year physical service in the Baton Rouge community.

That feeling you get when you see your kids' data reflecting their (and your) hard work.

Thanks for a fantastic year. 

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