By Eric T. Charles, City Year Chicago '15
Serving for City Year was the second best decision I have ever made. The first was deciding to attend Wabash College. I say this because I believe I never would have heard of City Year if I had not immersed myself in the greatest place of higher education for men.
Serving for City Year has provided me with a unique opportunity to give back to my hometown of Chicago and my neighborhood as well.
Giving back is very important to me, especially to a group of students who remind me so much of myself when I was a freshmen in high school, growing up in one of the country’s roughest neighborhoods.
During my time at Wabash, I was very involved on campus. As a four-year member of the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies, I had the pleasure of leading our last KQ&K Mentoring and Tutoring program. Leading this program gave me the fire to want to work with young people. Being a part of Unidos Por Sangre allowed me to learn about a culture I was not familiar with before coming to Wabash. Because of this experience, I am now able to connect with students of Latin descent.
The term “service” was first introduced to me while pledging Alpha Phi Omega. I learned and came to appreciate that service has many different definitions. It doesn’t always mean putting one’s life on the line and joining a military organization. Being a peer mentor gave me the confidence that I could lead someone into making better choices and convince them into thinking about their future. As a collective, I believe all of these opportunities led me to serve with City Year.
I find joy in helping students with their academics and also coaching them through everyday hurdles in life that warp their minds and cause them to doubt their potential. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said,
“ Everybody can be great because anybody can serve . You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
That is where someone like me comes in. It is my duty to make better happen for these students and sometimes it is just as easy as saying “Good morning” or telling my students that I love them.
City Year is not all about mentoring and tutoring, even though that is the bulk of the job. As an AmeriCorps member, we are challenged and encouraged to improve our professional skills. The most important skill I have been developing is communication. Communication is critical not only to how we interact with one another but also how we relate—and serve. This skill will also be crucial in my pursuit of a law degree after my year of service.