By Kymmie Cartledge, Team Leader at City Year Columbia

City Year Columbia When I was younger, I would line my dolls up and we would go on field trips around the house. I always had to keep two of my dolls separated because they didn’t know how to get along. Once I learned how to write, I would make nametags for my “students” and I would write on my chalkboard. In school, I would help my teachers grade papers and fix up their classrooms. I knew that teaching was my future and there was nothing that anyone could say or do to change that.

Last year, I graduated from Columbia College with a degree in elementary education and I received my initial teacher certification. My childhood dream of becoming a teacher finally came true. However, for the first time I started to question if teaching was really the right career for me to pursue. I enjoyed planning lessons and working with students, but I wasn’t confident in my ability to be an effective educator. I was terrified that I would fail at my lifelong dream. I decided to complete a year of service with City Year because I needed some time to reflect and figure out what I really wanted in life.  

Since I knew City Year was only a year commitment, I started early trying to make sure my post-City Year plan, was in order. During the course of the year, I applied to graduate school and I didn’t get accepted. I applied to other jobs and nothing worked out for me. I found myself asking for advice from my teammates, staff, and my family, but I was not sure what direction I should move. For the first time in my life, I didn’t know what my next move was going to be and it frightened me.

Overwhelmed, I took a few days away from thinking about my future and I started to have more conversations with students at my school. I really wanted to learn about the children that I have seen every day since August 17. I wanted to know their dreams and aspirations. Through talking to them, I found that children have a unique and innocent perspective on life. I quickly realized that my students would be a great source for advice.

Typically, I ask students what they want to be when they grow up, but I decided to change the question. I asked students what they think I should be when I grow up. A few of them never answered my question because they were surprised that  I would not be a City Year forever.  I heard responses such as “doctor,” “cheerleader,” “wrestler” and “basketball player” from the ones who did answer my question.  

However, the response I received the most was “teacher.” A 5th-grader told me I should be a teacher because I am “nice and I motivate others to do the right thing.” A kindergartener told me I should be a teacher because “I want you to teach me next year.”  A 3rd-grade student said, “I think you should be a teacher because you are really good with kids, but it is up for you to decide.”

That student was right, it was up for me to decide. However, I don’t really think I had a decision to make. It’s amazing to think the answer I wanted all along was right in front of me. I KNEW that teaching was what was really in my heart, but my fears kept me from really listening .  I honestly believe that none of those other job opportunities worked out for me because I was supposed to be in the classroom educating young minds. This year helped me realized that so many children look up to me. Even if I won’t be teaching at my current school, I know there are more children that need me in their life, as much as I need them in mine.

I’m grateful for my City Year experience. My leadership skills have grown immensely and I have refined a number of skills that I can easily transfer into the classroom. I am now more confident in myself than ever before. I am happy to say that this fall I will embark on my journey as a first year teacher. I will no longer be Ms. Kymmie from City Year, but I will be Ms. Cartledge, a teacher.


City Year can help point you down a number of career paths. Read to learn more:

Leadership After City Year

My Leap Year

Alumni Spotlight: Parke Hudson

Stepping Stones from City Year to Social Work


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