David is a City Year AmeriCorps member currently serving at the Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy

What's up everybody? My name is David Woodford and I'm not your typical City Year Chicago AmeriCorps Member.  I say that because I don't fall into the common denominator of Corps Members, or at least I don't think that I do.  I'm not someone who is passionate about education, or social work or even volunteering in general. I wasn't expecting to like this work, and many times I thought I was going to quit.  To me, City Year was an opportunity to move to Chicago with my friends and build up my resume before I found a real job.  But throughout my corps year my attitude quickly began to change.

David took some time during our MLK Day of Service to share how his day was going 

One thing that sparked this change in me is an event we hold at the Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy in the Little Village Community called a Peace Circle.  The basic premise of a Peace Circle is to promote camaraderie and acceptance of peers among the students.  Our first Peace Circle was for the 4th grade at Saucedo in the fall.  Since then we've hosted it for the 5th and 6th grades as well, and the response has only gotten better and better.

For half an hour before school starts, we invite the students to join us in the gymnasium at Saucedo.  We have a brief introduction and go into an activity that enables all students to connect with each other on a deeper level than they ever have before.

Our 6th grade Peace Circle was our most successful one yet. We had three stations that each taught valuable lessons.  Students were able to talk to each other to learn of their own similarities and differences.  They saw pictures of historical figures and grouped them together based on appearances, only to learn of the political, religious, or other rifts that divided them.  Lastly, students had to work together to build a 3-D puzzle of a cathedral.  It wasn't possible to be completed alone in the allotted time, but as a team they could see the final image come together.

Sitting front-most center-most in order to get that strategic advantage during our Stone Soup 90's Trivia 

It's witnessing events like this that cause my team and I to be thankful to be a part of City Year.  I am only an organizer of our Peace Circles, and it is up to the individual grade level Corps Members to truly bring the event to life.  Without my team, the success we've seen would be anything but possible.  It's funny, as much as these events are for the students to learn about accepting others for their individuality, my team has also come to learn of the advantages of working with a diverse group of idealistic individuals. 

Having almost completed my corps year with City Year Chicago, I can safely say that there is nothing I would have regretted more in my life than having not seen this year through.  I've grown personally, professionally, as a teammate, as a friend, and most importantly, as a human being.  The bonds I've formed with my students will transcend time and I will forever cherish my memories of them shouting "DW" at me in the hallway.  This may not have been the year I was expecting, but it has become a year I will never forget.

The Saucedo Scholastic Academy City Year team during their Family Engagement Night


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