by Cassie VanAcker


The best kind of relationship I have found so far is one that is mutually inspiring. This is the sort of connection that I have with my student Brian*.

The first thing that I noticed about Brian way back in September was his artistic ability. He was always drawing. Because of this, I invited him after school one day to help us prepare for our upcoming service event, Make-a-Difference Day. At this event, we would paint murals all around the school and beautify the learning environment. When he came to help out, Brian was surprised with the opportunity to design his very own mural for the school. He came up with a beautiful design of silhouettes that depicted students going from primary school to graduation. Ever since that day, Brian has had a special attachment to City Year and the City Year team at Dvorak became quite attached to him as well. More importantly, during this busy time Brian reminded us all of why we are here – for the students.

Brian's mural depicts a student's academic journey and is displayed at his school, Dvorak School of Excellence

Needless to say, Brian was the first student that I invited to join us at our spring break camp at Collins High School. He turned in his permission slip right away and told anyone who would listen that he was going to hang out with City Year over spring break. On the first day of camp, I walked into our classroom to find Brian sitting at a desk wearing my red jacket. When I questioned him about it, he just said: “It’s okay Ms. V. I’m going to be a City Year someday.” Of course, I let him wear my jacket for the remainder of camp.

Getting that 'look and feel' down during our Spring Break Camp!

Soon he started demanding that everybody call him “Mr. B” and claiming that he was the new City Year person. He constantly sought out corps members and asked them how he could help. By the end of the week corps members and students alike actually began to think that he was in City Year! I have never seen him light up more than when people believe him to be a City Year.

As much as we wish that we could stay in our students’ lives forever, it is simply not possible. After one short year, we will no longer be there for them every single day. The most powerful thing we can do with that year is to empower our kids to be themselves and help them forge their own paths. Brian’ good heart, enthusiasm, and optimism have encouraged me throughout my City Year journey. My hope is that I also inspired him in some way. I truly believe that one day I will see Brian wearing his very own red jacket and continuing to inspire others the way he has done for me. 


* - Brian's name has been changed to help protect his privacy

Share This Page