by Sandy Fonseca-Lopes, Senior AmeriCorps member serving on the Bank of America team with Young Achievers Science and Math Pilot K-8 School

In the classroom last year, the biggest challenge that I had with my students was getting them out of the “failure” mentality. They had fallen into the “I didn’t get it in the past, and so I’m not going to get it now” line of reasoning and they hated compliments. That was hard for me to hear coming from 6th-graders so I had to take a step back and figure out how I was going to approach this.  

I decided that nurturing their belief in their abilities was one way to help them succeed. I wanted to help them become confident, especially my girls. As an only child, I yearned for an older sister growing up, so I wanted to be that for them. I kept it real with them and that helped me develop strong relationships with them. I’ve discussed my obstacles, fears, and doubts, but also how, when I was in their shoes, I strove for excellence and never gave up.  

I love poetry and used it as a complement to the other academic and behavioral work I did with my students. Before we started each lesson, we recited a poem by Anne Lynn that I’ve had for years: 

Hey little black girl... I know your worth  
I know you are worth a million times more than what you could have ever imagined  
and that’s because you are a reflection of me  
and I am  
and I raised nothing less  
than a QUEEN 

To me, this poem represents breaking down barriers and showing them that they are worthy and capable. I helped my girls find their voices, while serving with City Year helped me enhance mine. Support, empathy, and purpose are three values that I gave my students but that they also gave me.


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