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by Danetria Johnson, Second Year Baton Rouge AmeriCorps member proudly serving on the Lamar Advertising Team at Melrose Elementary School

My name is Danetria Johnson and I am a City Year Baton Rouge AmeriCorps member proudly serving on the Lamar Advertising Team at Melrose Elementary School. I began my City Year journey in December of 2016; that’s right, I came in as a Mid-Year AmeriCorps member! From my mid-year perspective to my second year, I can honestly say that my reasons for serving have definitely become clearer over the course of the last year.

City Year Baton Rouge has taught me many things about life. First, change is possible. So, why do I serve? I remember the first time I was asked this question. My response was,“I chose to serve because I want to help make a difference in the lives of others.” I felt like this was an answer that applied to most AmeriCorps members. Although that is still very true, there is now more passion and clarity behind this statement. As I near my second year of service, I realize that I did not choose to serve. I was meant to do so. Every day, I wake up and put my red jacket on to come to a place where I matter. More importantly, my purpose is to let my students know that they matter.The cause of this realization happened when one of my most challenging students finally turned in her homework. It was a light bulb moment for me. I know that this may seem small to some, but this was the turning point for both of us this school year. Now that I look back on it, she reminded me so much of my past self. She was stubborn and acted out, but she also had so much potential. Also like myself at her age, she despised math. After weeks of encouraging her to try her best and giving her a little tough love when she would not complete assignments, it was time for us to have a conversation. I asked her why she continuously did not turn in assignments, and she explained to me that she had no one at home who could help her. So, we made a deal. I told her that any time she needed help, we could work on her homework during breakfast time. She began taking advantage of my offer and before we knew it she had brought her math grade up from an F to a C.

I serve because I love this feeling of accomplishment. By instilling a new determination and work ethic in my student, I can say that I am part of the lessons and resources that my student will take on with her to the next grade level and beyond.

I am honored to serve and live in a community much like the one I grew up in. Serving with City Year Baton Rouge also caused me to reflect on my childhood. I often think about how different my path would have been if I had an AmeriCorps member in my fourth-grade math class. I think about how my self-esteem would have flourished at an earlier age if I had a near-peer mentor I could connect with. So, along with my other reasons, I serve to be the person that I needed as a child. 

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