By Vera Kwan, City Year Los Angeles AmeriCorps member ’09, ’10
After I graduated from Loyola Marymount University (Go Lions!) in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, I had a lot of trouble finding a job because of the recession. When I was denied a job offer one after another, I started losing hope until I was invited to a post-graduate informational dinner at LMU in December 2008. There, I was introduced to City Year, which was recently started in Los Angeles. I immediately applied and, a few weeks later in the New Year, I joined as a mid-year AmeriCorps member.
On the first day of in-class service, I instantly fell in love with my students, my partner-teacher, the school, and my team. Within the first month, I knew I wanted to serve another year because I knew my work with my focus list student, Morgan*, wasn’t done yet. When we started working together, she was a soft-spoken 3rd-grade student who was not confident even though she knew the answers. By the end of the school year, she jumped two reading levels , felt comfortable speaking out loud in class, and was able to show her brilliance by raising her hand and participating. I was so proud that she worked hard to reach her goals. As soon as she introduced me to her mom as her “tutor and friend,” I knew I had made the right choice to serve with CYLA.
I didn’t realize I wanted to become a teacher until after I completed my second year of service with CYLA and entered the real world. On my cubicle walls, I kept pictures of my teams and our adventures. I went about my days doing my accounting job.
But something was missing in my life and I didn’t know what it was.
I asked my supervisor to take a morning off and scheduled a visit to my old school on the first day of school. I was out by the gate, talking with some of my prior parents, when all of a sudden, I hear someone yelling, “Ms. Vera.” Someone ran into my arms to hug me. Full of emotions, it was Morgan, ready to start her first day of 5th grade. It was in that moment I knew I needed to find my way back to working with students in the world of education. A few months later and with encouragement from friends, I started the process of beginning a new career by attending graduate school at LMU to get my master’s and credentials in elementary education.
Fast forward to today. As a second year teacher, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to become a teacher. There have been many hard and long days. Days that include assessing students and addressing students’ misbehavior. However, there are also great days. Days were I watch my students applauding for one student who did an excellent job in achieving their goals, or days where I see the light bulb click for a student who was struggling in multiplication.
My years in City Year shaped my perspection of the world and how students like Morgan need teachers and role models to believe in them and teach them so they can, in turn, believe in themselves and help make the world a bigger and better place for others. I teach my students that they have to make the world better for themselves and those around them. My advice to you is the same: Find your passion and channel it to make everything around you better for others.
*Name changed to protect student privacy.