Written by Katie Charbonneau, AmeriCorps Member serving at Celerity Lanier

It's nearing the end of my service year, and I'm thinking about my experiences as an AmeriCorps member during the last 10 months. I didn't realize how much I would learn this year about myself, other people, and America in general. Yes, I've learned about Common Core standards, education, and how schools are run. I learned about how different education is in Louisiana compared to my home state of Massachusetts. More importantly, I learned about the community here in Baton Rouge.

I learned about the students here and their lives. I learned about how students, even at "failing schools," are thirsty for knowledge. Greg Johnson, a mid-year serving at Capitol in Baton Rouge, says he learned a lot about the struggles many Americans endure through his students.

"I saw firsthand the challenges low income, marginalized communities face," said Johnson.

These challenges include poverty and a lack of resources. No matter where you serve with City Year, you might see many of these challenges. Despite these challenges, I learned that our students should not just be defined as "at-risk youth."  Many of our students come to school every day without the necessary uniform, backpacks, or even school supplies. AmeriCorps member Patricia Saye, who serves at Celerity Dalton Charter School, said she immediately recognized this.

"I've learned kids, especially in urban schools, are very receptive. Because of that they're resilient," said Saye. 

The resilience of our children is inspiring. Seeing their resilience is what helped me come to school every day. Of course during my year of service, I learned necessary skills to advance my career. I honed skills in public speaking, patience, and professionalism. I decided I want to become a mental health counselor, and many of  my peers decided to become teachers. But the biggest, most important thing I learned? Each and every one of my students has greatness inside them. I shouldn't be referring to them as "at-risk youth." Instead, I should refer to them as great because, after all, they are what brought me here in the first place.

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