City Year Columbia FAQs
What is Columbia like?
Columbia, SC is a beautiful southern city with distinct neighborhoods. The downtown area is full of restaurants, museums, hotels, nightlife and the campus of the University of South Carolina. Columbia has four distinct seasons. Summer is humid and extremely hot; autumn is mild and cool as winter approaches; winter is chilly with the occasional snow/ice storm; and spring is full of flowers–and pollen.
How can I get around without a car?
Getting around Columbia without a car is tricky. Please check out Columbia’s public transit to see if it meets your transportation needs. Carpooling is great way to save on gas and get where you need to go quickly.
What should I expect on the first day?
On your first day, you should expect to be emerged in City Year culture and introduced to the CY Columbia team. Be prepared to do some team builders!
What is life like after City Year?
Life after City Year is what you make it. Some alumni choose to apply for a second year corps member position (Team Leader), while others decide to use their award to go back to school or join the workforce.
What are some of the general challenges during your service year? How do you cope?
At City Year, you typically serve anywhere between 10-12 hours each day. Those are long days! Despite all of the awesome service you are doing, naturally those lengthy hours can catch up with you. Some days will be more challenging than others, but in those tough moments you’d find that leaning on your teammates is immensely beneficial and helpful in lifting up your spirits and rejuvenating you to finish the day strong. We are all going through the same experience day in and day out, so there is a level of empathy and understanding among us. You and your team make it a point at the end of each day to circle up with each other and share joys from the day. We prioritize ending on a positive note before we leave the school.
At City Year, we are trained to troubleshoot and be solution-oriented. You will receive frequent feedback and guidance when reaching out to your teammates and staff about challenges you face in your service, whether it’s life-work balance, a tough student, or meeting a deadline. It’s also important to remember to use your weekends to relax and reflect. You will do a lot of important and fulfilling work during the week, so finding time on the weekends to rest your body and mind will help get you ready for the next week ahead.
How does a teacher respond to having a corps member in their classroom? What is the working relationship between them?
Teachers are thrilled to have an AmeriCorps member in their classroom! Oftentimes, classrooms have 20-30 students. Despite how amazing your partner teacher may be, you can imagine how difficult it is to reach every single student and ensure each one is receiving the help they need in order to excel. City Year corps members and teachers create a list of students (called a Focus List) who will be tutored either one-on-one or in a small group during math and literacy classes. Students will receive the attention they need to meet their specific needs in the classroom from their corps member, with whom they are developing a positive relationship. Research finds that relationships with a caring adult help to keep students engaged and motivated to come to school.
City Year AmeriCorps members are not teaching aides or assistant teachers. Corps members work in tandem with teachers to ensure that every student in the classroom receives the academic, social and emotional support they need in order to learn, grow and achieve. Corps members and teachers meet regularly to go over the lessons of the week and assess student progress throughout the year. Corps members are updated on projects and homework assignments so that when they see their students during the afterschool program, they will be able to best assist them during their extended learning time.
Teachers appreciate the additional classroom support and continuity that AmeriCorps members provide to their students.
How do you know you’ve made a difference in the life of a student?
City Year does a great job collecting quantitative and qualitative data that reflects the effectiveness of the service corps members provide. We track students’ grades, test scores and attendance as well as surveying students about their attitudes toward school, their peers and City Year corps members.
On a personal level, AmeriCorps members are constantly building trust and positive relationships with the students they are serving, helping students to feel a sense of belonging and connection to their school community.
How do families feel about corps members?
Families of the students we serve can be just as involved in our service as the teachers are. We communicate with parents regularly to make sure students are attending school, and also update them on their child’s academic and behavioral progress. We also make a strong effort to engage parents and family members to attend events at school and within their communities. We have found that the more invested parents are in their child’s school experience, the more enthusiastic and excited students are about attending school and excelling in the classroom.
Will I be able to share what I am passionate about with my students?
Absolutely! AmeriCorps members are encouraged to share their interests and talents with our students, particularly afterschool programs. Corps members write lesson plans for afterschool offerings and create clubs in subjects that they are familiar with and think their students will enjoy, such as robotics, drama and international clubs. Students’ love of learning strengthens when you teach them something you genuinely love, especially if it is something they’ve yet to be exposed to. Corps members get really creative — Chess Clubs, Acting Clubs, Step Clubs, World Cup Soccer Clubs, Origami Clubs, French Cuisine Clubs — the sky’s the limit! Bring your passion to your service.
During small group or one-on-one tutoring, if you have creative ideas to teach a lesson to a student that involves role playing, drawing pictures, or even singing, then by all means go for it! There will be a point in time during your service that you will know your students so well that you’ll know exactly how to teach them in a way that will help them learn best.
How do you budget living costs on a stipend?
It is not unusual for AmeriCorps members to save money before they begin their service. Putting away some extra cash to help pay for bills over the year not only teaches you how to budget and manage your money in a responsible way, but it also grants you financial flexibility when you earn your bi-weekly stipend checks.
When you search for an apartment, it’s recommended to live with two to three roommates to lessen the cost of rent. Splitting rent is significantly cheaper than paying it all yourself! This also goes for bills. Aside from that, you will be required to wear your City Year uniform every day, so you will not need to worry about purchasing office attire during your service year!
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