Written by Mallory Orr, AmeriCorps Member serving on the Entergy Louisiana Team at Broadmoor Middle School.

As we began our year of service, we were told that this year we would most likely find a Starfish. One of City Year’s founding stories is the Starfish story, which teaches us that although we might not be able to change the lives of every single student at our schools that our work is still worth it because we will be able to change the life of at least one--our Starfish.

For the first few months of school, I hadn’t been able to identify my Starfish, I was working hard with all my kids doing classwork, reading books, studying for tests, and playing games at lunch. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I came to the realization of who my Starfish was, and he was who I least expected.

At the start of school, Daniel* wanted nothing to do with me--he would put his head down when I would try to work with him in class and even met me with words like “get away from me.” From the beginning though, I saw potential in him and made the choice to persist in my efforts to help him succeed. Daniel ended up on my focus list--the set of students City Year Americorps members work closest with--and through many days of working together in class, he finally was open to encouragement I offered him.

Daniel has not only grown academically, but has become more social and friendly with me and his other teachers, in fact it is hard to find a day he doesn’t join me in the City Year room for lunch.

I hope that my efforts to encourage and motivate Daniel will continue to help him next semester as I have seen him grow so much in the past four months. Not only have I been blessed with the chance to watch him evolve, but he has also taught me so much in return. As I reflect on the time I have spent with him this semester, I am so grateful to him for giving me three major gifts that I know will serve me through the rest of this year...

A Lesson in Perserverence

Even when students act like they don’t want help, it is so important to persevere in offering them positive words of encouragement and holding them to the standards I know they can meet. If I hadn’t persevered through Daniel’s initial attitude, we would never be where we are now.

Lots of Laughter

A day of service at Broadmoor can be trying and tiring, but moments of laughter with my students are what push me through the day, and I am lucky to have had many of these moments because of my Starfish.

A Reminder That Kind Words Make a Difference

It is easy to become frustrated with students, but watching the impact of simple words like “you can do it”, “I believe in you”, and “thank you” on my students has allowed me to never lose sight of the importance of kindness. Even in the toughest moments working with Daniel, simply reminding him he is capable has made all the difference. I’ve been lucky to receive a few “thank you’s” from him too.

Working and bonding with my Starfish, Daniel, has been one of the best parts of my City Year. While I will miss his jokes and our time working together over this Winter Holiday, I am so excited to see what we can accomplish together in the next half of this City Year, and I don’t think I’ll be able to forget the gifts he has given me.

Click here to read more inspiring stories from City Year AmeriCorps members

*name has been changed to protect student's privacy

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