Tariq Mohammed is a Cleveland native who proudly serves as a City Year Cleveland AmeriCorps member at Franklin D. Roosevelt Academy on Cleveland’s East side.
Before attending law school, Tariq considered participating in a year of community service. During winter break of his senior year at Miami University, Tariq shadowed a friend, who served with City Year Cleveland as an AmeriCorps member. Tariq said, “During my visit, I was able to witness the mission of City Year taking place right before my eyes. Being able to see the power of the near-peer relationship between an AmeriCorps member and a student and the delivery academic interventions was amazing. In that short period of time, firsthand I understood the important of the AmeriCorps member role - serving as mentor, coach and educator. This is why I decided to commit a year of service with City Year.”
After serving for a year with City Year (where he primarily worked with 5th graders), Tariq decided to return as a second year AmeriCorps member. He was able to return to serve at Franklin D. Roosevelt Academy in a leadership role, allowing him to work with the same group of students from the previous year. Within one year, he has seen immense growth from his now 6th graders. “What is even more meaningful to me is being able to continue to support them on their journeys toward becoming successful scholars,” said Tariq.
Tariq is reminded of one of his 6th graders, Miracle*, who is a testament of the belief in oneselve can make a difference. Miracle was chronically absent and was likely to have to repeat the fifth grade. She missed a month of school before she started working with City Year. She was immediately added to Tariq’s attendance focus list. Tariq points out that, “It was my duty to help troubleshoot this issue in order to help her attend school more frequently. A student cannot learn unless they are in school.”
City Year deploys AmeriCorps members to serve, utilizing the Whole School Whole Child method. This method uses performance metrics to measure impact. Based on the research that identifies four indicators that place students at risk for dropping out of school, City Year works in partnership with school staff to regularly monitor student performance in the early warning indicators — Attendance, Behavior, and Coursework (English and math).
One in 10 students in kindergarten and the first grade are chronically absent, and by sixth grade, chronic absence becomes one of the early warning signs that a student may drop out of high school.
When Tariq first meet with Miracle, he informed her that they would be setting goals every week to keep track of her progress. “I made sure during this meeting, like many of the meetings to follow, that I would not force goals. She needed to establish her own goals so she felt ownership over them and would meet them,” explained Tariq. In their first meeting, Tariq found out a lot about Miracle by simply asking her what was causing her reoccurring absences.
“I asked her about how she gets to school and was able to find out she takes the bus. When asked when does the bus leaves and when she arrives to the bus station," Tariq said. "I found out that she was getting to the bus stop only a minute before it was scheduled to arrive. I suggested we first need to adjust the time she gets to the bus stop. We agreed that she should try arriving five minutes before the bus arrives and feel safe waiting for that amount of time. Our original goal was for her to meet this goal three days a week, but the goal was quickly adjusted to all 5 days,” Tariq said.
By mid-year, her teachers began to notice the improvements in her attendance and she was getting back on track. “I was most proud of Miracle, when she was invited to City Year’s perfect attendance pizza party, which required students to attend school every day for a month.” This year, Miracle, was recognized by the school for her efforts by being awarded a special award and prize from the McDonald’s “Get to school Drive" initiative, which is based on school attendance.
“As an AmeriCorps member, being able to provide assistance and improve student’s self-management skills is very meaningful to me because it serves as a big component in their maturation process in becoming more independent young men and women,” said Tariq.
*The student name has been changed to conceal the identity of the student involved.