By Alex Yung, City Year AmeriCorps member serving at the McNair School of Excellence 

What is national service? For me it was helping communities in need. Those communities range from; California, Washington, Texas, Missouri, Oregon, Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana. This year has led me back to my home state, Illinois.

The reason why I came back to Illinois was to join an AmeriCorps program called City Year. I am used to physical service but this program is an entirely different experience. City Year helps students with their attendance, behavior, and course performance. It was going to be a different experience but one I wanted to have.

I started my adventure in July. City Year prepared the corps for what they would be doing for the year, it was called basic training academy. After a month of training and getting my permanent team, it would be time to travel to the place I would call my second home.

The first day will be unforgettable, the fear of starting something new. That fear began when I first saw the school. The sight of the school scared me because my mind was saying "This is REAL." The first month included meeting the staff and administration, familiarizing myself with my schedule, and finally meeting the students.

Meeting the students would be the second scariest thing to me. "Would they like me?" "Can I help them?" "Can I do this?" Those questions still pop up from time to time. When I first met my students, I was the quiet observer in the back of the room. The students wondered why I was even in the classroom. I did not know any of the students’ names and it was hard to get them quiet. I was afraid it was going to be a long year with them.

The McNair Team! 

The next day I started to read and memorize the seating chart. Each day I started to interact more with students. Fast forward three months. I now know every students’ name, I can get students to refocus either by a simple look or a quick talk. There are a still hick-ups with the students and getting the system down. Challenges will always present themselves but the only way to overcome them is to keep going. I said it was going to be a long year but now, I feel like I won’t have enough time with these wonderful people. City Year has given me memories I will have for a life-time.

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