City Year: A Survival Guide

It’s 9:55 a.m. on a Wednesday. I’ve been sick for four days now. Sore throat, runny nose, and a headache that won’t let up. My students have been jokingly avoiding coming close to me because they say I “have Ebola”. It’s been ten minutes since first period has ended and I’m already wishing I could hop back in bed. During my tutoring sessions, one student walked out because he didn’t agree with the consequence I provided for his actions. Another student struggled to stay on task because, as a lot of middle school students will tell you, “reading is boring”.

However, not all was lost. I had two students who were behind catch up to where the rest of the class was. Another was intrigued with the setting of our book, so we got on Google Maps and had a bonus geography lesson. Like most classes, it was filled with positive and not-so-positive (shall we say “delta”?) experiences. Though each class varies daily, they all have one thing in common: they demand effort and energy -- two things I’m running low on right now. Outside of my academic responsibilities lie more City Year tasks that must be completed.

We’ve just completed another successful fall festival at HGMS (due to the help of volunteers and our wonderful CY counterparts at HPES and SES!) and though the event is behind us, there is still work to be done: the in-kind team must write and distribute thank you letters and tax forms to our gracious donators; the decorations from the haunted hallway must be returned to the ever-kind Mr. Elliott Epps; the cupcakes left over must be consumed (so this one is a reach, but I think you get the point). Amongst all the City Year responsibilities are the personal obstacles life likes to throw in the way: my phone mysteriously disappeared during the festival, so communication during this time has become a challenge itself; new phones don’t come cheap, so money will be tight until the next stipend; the bank also snagged another $35 from my account since a check bounced when I paid my rent. So, what is the point of all this venting (or complaining -- however you’d like to view it)?

PITW #159: This is Hard. Be Strong. Be Strong.

A task that seems easier said than done. How does one be strong during their time here? The answer is all around you.

Sounds cheesy, right? But seriously, look around you. Most likely, there’s a group of people experiencing similar struggles while trying to accomplish similar responsibilities. People who decided to give a year of service for the same reasons you did. People that believe in making better happen.

Though that sounds all good and dandy, the reality of the situation is you will forget about those reasons at times. You’ll have days where you forget why you decided to commit to civic service. There will be days where students will test your patience and may even succeed in doing so. Tensions amongst fellow corps members may even reach a breaking point. When that breaking point seems imminent, make a point to take a break (see what I did there?): lose yourself in a hobby outside of school; talk with someone you trust (like a caring team leader, impact manager, or corps member) or call home.

Life in the City Year trenches isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. When the clouds roll in, try to remember this: each one of us is facing a storm. Find strength in one another. Find solace in knowing you are not alone in what you do.

Being a part of City Year is being a part of something bigger than yourself. When we all support and work with one another, we will be bigger in all that we do. This is hard. Be strong. (Bing!)

- Written by Wesley Strayer, City Year AmeriCorps member serving at City Year Columbia

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