by Danielle Innocent, AmeriCorps member on the Wellington Management team with McKay K-8 School

A year with City Year is an experience that involves countless moving parts, constantly jumping from task to task. In an environment such as this, it would be easy for small details and efforts to go unnoticed, which could make a stressful but incredibly rewarding job feel less impactful. However, one of the wonderful aspects of City Year is the culture of appreciation it cultivates. Throughout City Year culture, appreciation and acknowledgement intertwines with everything you do, no matter how big or small it might feel.

In our team space at the McKay K-8 School in East Boston, we have an Appreciation Station: a bulletin board strung with a clothespin labeled with each of our names. There are small quarter sheets of paper near the board, on which you can write an appreciation for anyone on the team, and pin it to their clip. From thank you’s to acknowledgement of a job well done to notes of encouragement to help a teammate get through a rough day, the station is available for virtually anything. Walking into the team space and seeing a paper clipped to my name never fails to bring an immediate smile to my face, even before I know what the note says. Just the mere fact that someone throughout the day was thinking of me and noticing things I do is enough to instantly cheer me up. On long days, the Appreciation Station is a chance for us as a team to recognize and celebrate all of the hard work we do, and to let each other know how much we value each other.

The culture of appreciation in City Year extends even beyond us as AmeriCorps members. In every interaction we have—with students, with teachers, with parents—we try to acknowledge and appreciate the hard work that is being done by every aspect of the community we are a part of. For me, appreciating students is one of the best ways to build a connection with them, and is one of the most crucial aspects of my service. Though they have their ups and downs, I know that day in and day out, my students are giving it their all. Despite anything else they may have going on, they show up to school ready to work and ready to learn, and I strive to make it known that I recognize and appreciate the effort they put into their education.

Recently, my team threw an AttenDance for students at our school who had achieved perfect attendance during the months of January or February. For an hour during the day, students with perfect attendance were invited to the gym, where we had several activities ready for them, including a photo booth, a plethora of snacks, and a dance floor. It was a celebration dedicated entirely to them and to their accomplishments, appreciating them for attending school, on time, every single day. The students loved the dance, and it was a wonderful way to both incentivize perfect attendance in the future, and reward and celebrate students who had already accomplished it.

I am a firm believer that in order to get students, and people in general, to continue on the right track, it is imperative to recognize accomplishments when the achieve them, and the culture of appreciation at City Year allows just that.  

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