City Year Columbia Team Leader, Sandhills Elementary
“My leadership mission is to show, by example, the qualities of a strong leader and educator and to inspire others to serve to create a better world. Instead of dwelling in the past, I will focus on being in the present in order to make a better future.” – Derek Wilson
My name is Derek Wilson, I am from Beaumont, Texas, and I proudly serve as a team leader at Sandhills Elementary School with City Year Columbia. Coming into the corps for my first year, I did not know what to expect from the organization, inside or outside of the school setting. During Basic Training Academy, BTA, I was pushed outside of my comfort zone to interact with around 20 other incoming corps members by participating in an abundance of cheesy icebreakers and teambuilding games that at first felt pointless to get to know each other throughout our three weeks of training. Towards the end, however, I realized that I had formed a closer bond with my fellow teammates than I have with many of my long-time friends. The atmosphere that City Year Columbia created for all of us incoming corps members is one of such great inclusivity and openness that it made all of us feel comfortable sharing our profound emotional experiences, which is something that I had not experienced before in a working environment. I expected to be educated by the many speakers and presentations through the course of our training, but I never thought that the most useful thing would just be learning to understand the unique perspectives that each corps member brings.
The bond of understanding that has been made between all of us has been the core of what I believe helps us to function so well as a team. Every morning when we all get to school before 7:00 AM, some of us barely sliding out of the car since we have not had our morning coffee, I know that Kimberly Williams, one of my fellow corps members, will be there to wake us up and share some of her positive energy. When something confidential happens at the school, and one of us feels like we will not be able to share the experience with anyone else fully, we can always count on Lashetrius Raven to be there. Raven Champion is one of the hardest workers that I know, and that combined with Cali Keeran’s passion for working to help the students makes so much happen at the school that goes far above and beyond my expectations. Nia Flanagan keeps us reigned into reality while also putting out amazing visions for change in the school that inspire us all to keep striving to reach higher and higher goals. Kaleb Porter never fails to lighten the mood when it’s the end of the day, and we’re all nearly worn out, but he also does an excellent job keeping us motivated with one of the most demanding roles that we have in the school. I feel like I know these corps members so well now that without forming the bonds that we managed to make early on in our service, I’m not sure what the team dynamic would look like, but I am confident that it would not run as smoothly or feel as much like a family as we do right now.
Coming in as a Team Leader for my first year, I was not sure what to expect of my role. I knew that the team would be close, but what would a leader be in an environment where everyone holds each other up? Sure, part of my role is to hold my peers accountable, but that is not what I think of when I am on my way to service. I think much more of what the team means to me, and like my leadership mission statement, how I can show them by example what it means to put your heart and mind into every task and give this service year your all. I think about what it means to the rest of the team for me to be fully engaged in my service, and how they respond by giving their all to their service.
At first, I thought I served for the children, and what they could grow up to be given the right guidance. Now I realize that while that is certainly a large part of it, I am striving to be a role model for all of the people around me, whether they are students, fellow corps members, or anyone who get to know me. I serve because Nia, Kimberly, Raven, Lala, Kaleb, and Cali, as well as the rest of City Year Columbia, are my family, and I want to see them grow and succeed in all that they choose to do, and I believe that is my role as a Team Leader with City Year Columbia.