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Shining a light on our City Year alumni: Tony Ying

City Year Cleveland alumni go on to do great things in our community, and we love hearing what they’re up to! Our guest writer Macin Sheeder, who’s interning with City Year Cleveland as part of her undergraduate studies at Case Western Reserve University, catches up with two-time City Year Cleveland alum, Tony Ying, who’s currently continuing to serve his community through AmeriCorps VISTA.

City Year in the classroom

Serving your community with City Year

Q: Tony, can you tell us a little about yourself?

A: Sure! My name is Tony Ying (he/him/his), I graduated from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in 2019 with a degree in Religious Studies, and some of my hobbies are fitness, reading Black history/literature, learning about finance/economics.

Q: Why did you choose to take a gap year with City Year?

A: I struggled with deciding whether to go to medical school or become a teacher. I figured a short-term service opportunity would be a good test to see if I enjoyed working in the school system. I met with a few organizations doing work in education, but the people I talked to who represented City Year were the most welcoming and engaging. I also knew someone else from CWRU who became a teacher after serving with City Year.

Q: How did your experiences at CWRU prepare you for your time with City Year?

A: My academic studies (mostly science and religion) were completely different from anything I did at City Year! That being said, I did spend time in college volunteering with Project Step Up, which involved tutoring local students in math, science, and essay writing. That definitely prepared me for working with students as a City Year member.

Q: What is one of your favorite City Year moments or memories?

A: One of my students got teased a lot for making an effort to be a better scholar, whether by asking questions in class or staying after school for extra help. At one point, there was a big test. Most of the students didn’t do well on it. But this student spent every free minute at my desk going through the practice packet. It paid off, because when the test came around, he got the highest score out of anyone in his grade.

When I found out about his score, I made sure to encourage him to always try his best, no matter the discouragement from others — the test is just proof that it pays off. We sat together on the bus ride home that day, and even though we didn’t say much, there was an unspoken feeling of accomplishment shared between us. It was a satisfying moment for me as a future teacher, because I was able to validate the importance he places on his education.

Q: What have you been up to in the years following your City Year experience?

A: I currently work at Glenville High School in Cleveland as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. Throughout the day I help out with anything from math to science to English, mainly tutoring students who need to recover credits to graduate on time. I also teach a financial literacy class. It feels good to have a part in setting up students for success outside of school.

In the future I hope to offer other alternative subjects that are directly relevant to students’ lives, such as trade occupations and community involvement. I’m currently expanding my own education with a masters degree in Integrated Mathematics Teaching. City Year 100% influenced where I currently am and where I hope to go.

Q: What does service mean to you?

A: To me, service is all about stepping into positions to help people grow to their maximum potential, while also developing as a leader yourself. During my experiences as a City Year member, there was no better way to discover and develop the qualities I possess as a leader than to insert myself into a position where I serve other people.

Q: What did City Year teach you?

A: Above all else, City Year taught me to be comfortable with the uncomfortable! You never know what’s going to come your way; there are so many variables and life circumstances that each student brings to the table, and you have to think on your toes to help them in the best way you can. But also, you don’t have to have all the answers – sometimes just being there, as a source of comfort and stability, can make a huge difference.

If you’re game for a rewarding experience like Tony’s serving in our Cleveland schools, apply now to serve in City Year Cleveland’s 2022-23 Corps or connect with a recruiter to learn more.

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