by Ayesha Akther City Year Philadelphia ‘19
On September 9, 2001, my family and I immigrated to the United States from Saudi Arabia without knowing any English, my parents left everything behind in search of better educational opportunities for my siblings and me. At the age of seven, I distinctly remember sitting in my first-grade class, overwhelmed, scared, and lonely. I didn’t know how to write my name in English, I felt embarrassed for not understanding anything, and my teacher had too many students to support any individually. Slowly but surely, I started to fall behind on school assignments and started to lose motivation. I felt hopeless because I wasn’t getting the help I needed, and sometimes I felt like a burden for taking up too much of my teacher’s time. Eventually, with the help of a few mentors, I was able to gain the extra support I needed to get back on track.
Today, as the first woman in my family to graduate college, I feel an obligation to make it easier for others who might be in the same position I once was. I hope to be able to connect with students on a deeper level because of my inherent understanding of their situations and the challenges they face. I know all too well that most of these students have many adversities they will have to overcome. I want to ensure that school attendance and classroom success act as bridges for these students, not barriers.
All in all, City Year is an opportunity for me to: (1) give back and connect with students who are from communities I once belonged to, (2) continue my passion for working with children and families in underresourced communities, and (3) learn from seasoned experts on creating a career in the education field. I want to work in the service of others. I feel passionate about making a difference in someone else’s life. My passion comes from my experience in growing up in a low-income community and understanding the challenges these communities face. I have seen first-hand the positive impact of providing support for children. As I reflect on all of the organizations and community service projects I have been a part of up to this point, I am inspired by all that can still be done to serve others. City Year will be a perfect gateway from the work I am currently doing to what I want to do in the future – work at a public school as a counselor. I plan to pursue a Masters of Education in School Counseling. I believe working with City Year Philadelphia will allow me to meet dedicated professionals in the field and to develop further skills on interacting with children.