2016-02-12

By Danielle Doolittle, AmeriCorps member serving on the Comcast NBCUniversal team with Jeremiah E. Burke High School

“I’m good but, miss, how’s your day?” This is my favorite response when I ask a student how their day has been going because it catches me off guard in the best of ways. I often turn, wide-eyed that my 10th grader would be asking me how I’m doing, and respond over-zealously that my day is now going wonderfully. Such a small question can turn my day around and immediately remind me why I serve with City Year.

In all honesty, the early mornings and late nights are challenging, and some days are harder than others to find my inner idealist and radiate positivity. Serving at Jeremiah E. Burke High School is a privilege and I walk in each day excited to see my students and looking forward to spending the day with my loving and hilarious teammates. These days, however, are long, and it isn’t always easy to identify what, if any, impact we make daily.

On particularly tiring days where I begin losing perspective and am in need of a reminder of why my service is important, I think about advice given to me early on. During one of our first weeks of service, I sat down with my Impact Manager, Chelsea Earle, to talk about my day and I mentioned that I didn’t feel like I had really made any impact in the classroom. Chelsea smiled knowingly and responded, “But, you’re here. That counts.”

One of my biggest responsibilities is to show up. When I show up to service each day, on time, I am committing myself to my students and to a cause greater than myself. Students notice when I am late to class, even if it’s because I had to make attendance phone calls home. Students notice when our team isn’t there on Fridays and ask where we’ve been even though they know the routine. The students notice our absences, even if only for the first five minutes of class, because it matters to them that we show up each day. Part of our purpose as mentors and role models is to show the students consistency and prove to them that we will be there every day to support them. We build trust with our students, teachers, and greater community when we simply show up.

Although I don’t see the sun most days (thanks, winter) and I go to sleep later than I’d like, I committed to being present for ten months of service and I intend to fulfill that responsibility. The small act of me getting to service on time does make an impact. Similarly, the small act of a student saying hello to me first in the hallway, asking me how I’m doing, or showing me a new game they’ve been playing make my days and weeks matter so much more. When I show up to school, I am telling my students that I may be cold, I may be tired, but I will get through this day with them--and, together, we will make it count.

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