East Technical High School sits in the heart of Cleveland’s central neighborhood, an area that once was a place of expansion and opportunity, but has fallen on hard times. Currently it has the largest concentration of public housing and suffers from high poverty and crime rates. This is the neighborhood Amelia Lord finds herself in each morning. However, she sees the hope and promise in this old Cleveland neighborhood especially the potential and ability in the youths that are growing up there and attending East Technical High School.
Like many of her fellow City Year AmeriCorps members, Amelia’s day starts before sunrise and ends well past the conclusion of the school day. After the morning planning meeting with her team, she joins her student cohort, which she will follow all day through all of their classes. She guides students through their classwork in History, Science, Math and English and during elective periods, students are pulled out for tutoring in math and literacy. In the afternoons, Amelia is busy planning and implementing after-school events with her teammates, and is available for tutoring for students needing help.
“I didn’t realize how much I’d learn from my experience at City Year Cleveland. Many of the students I work with don’t have as much support as they need. If I can be part of the solution or get them to the right person, I want to help and that’s why I serve.”
At City Year, we believe education has the power to help every child reach his or her potential. However, in high-poverty communities there are external factors and obstacles students are faced with every day that can interfere with their ability to both get to school and be ready and able to learn. But it's these students who need a bit of extra, individualized support. But there’s a gap between the kind of help they need and the support the schools are designed to provide.
America’s schools are designed to provide extra support to just 15% of students. But in many high-poverty communities, 50% or more students require additional support academic, social, or emotional support.
As Amelia talks about her service she remembers one of the students she worked with, Cody*. Cody was one of the quietest kids in the class. When Amelia met her, she was reading at a 5th grade level but was in the 9th grade. She was self-conscious and would shut-down when asked to participate. Cody had the ability to fade into the background and just get by without progressing.
Amelia started working with her on reading and found that she gained confidence when she was able to complete what she started, so they began to read short articles together. With every finished composition, her conviction and self-assurance grew leaps and bounds. “Through our sessions and her hard work, by mid-year, she had jumped two grade levels,” said Amelia. “I started noticing changes in the classroom as well. She volunteered to read out loud, she started taking notes and was excited to participate. After we had made it through numerous short articles, we decided to start a book together and in the first day we read 75 pages. She was reading with expression, understanding and was animated.” By the end of the year Cody was reading at an 8th grade reading level. The average student advances one grade level a year, Cody advanced three grade levels in one year. With such a great accomplishment, Amelia tasked her with the challenge of reading a full book on her own over the summer. Amelia was elated when she met Cody at the beginning of the next school year and Cody exclaimed, “I read it! I finished it and it was cool!”
“It’s difficult for some of our students to let people into their lives and the fact that I have been awarded that privilege makes me want to work harder and help in any way I can,” said Amelia. Amelia is returning to City Year Cleveland for the 2015-2016 year as a Team Leader at East Technical High School. She served as a City Year AmeriCorps member in 2014-2015 at East Technical High School as well.
After her work with City Year, Amelia wants to work with children in direct service and is looking into school programs for either social work or school counseling.
*The student name has been changed to conceal the identity of the student involved.