Milena is currently serving on the Acosta team at Jean Ribault High School and will be returning for the 2019-2020 school year as a Service Leader.
Ever since I decided to apply for City Year, I had always planned to serve for two years -a Team Member year followed by a Service Leader year. Serving this year has only strengthened that conviction. I love the community that I found in City Year—something I have never experienced in a workplace before. I love working with so many people that have the same core values that I do, yet are still so different from me. I love my team, the people and students I work with every day. Not only do I want to stay a little while longer in the organization that I have come to love, but I want to help build it to be better than I found it; that’s why I decided to come back to City Year and lead a team next year.
Someone told me at the beginning of this year that City Year is what you make of it. I took that to heart and as a result, I seized every opportunity to both build up the City Year community and to equip myself with skills that I would have never had the chance to develop otherwise. There have been several instances when working in City Year has made me more able to think on my feet and create solutions on the fly. For example, I spearheaded the Open Mic Night my team put on in Jean Ribault High School, which was an evening where kids could share their original poetry, spoken word pieces, or rap. One of the most important things to know about working with kids is that you must be endlessly flexible, a lesson I learned well while putting on this event. After weeks of planning, the day of the event arrived - and half of the students who signed up to perform decided that they were no longer able to. I had to figure out a solution to that problem within the two hours of the start of the event. We ended up asking several faculty members to read poetry and it became an event involving the entire school and not just the students. The Open Mic Night event was the first big event that I lead and was excellent practice in thinking on my feet and coming up with solutions. These lessons would be invaluable later in the year when I had to plan other events.
I have also taken opportunities to grow as a leader, serving in leadership positions in a couple of different places. I joined the Service Reserves for the Martin Luther King Day of Service, a day when we honor Doctor King by volunteering in the community, and was a part of the planning and implementation of the service projects that we completed that day. I was selected for Corps Council and through that I became the Captain of the Social Justice committee. On this committee, we plan events for the AmeriCorps members intended to increase social awareness, for instance documentary screenings of MissRepresentation and Teach Us All. One of my favorite events that I was able to organize was an event called "Clarity Coffee,” a conversation about modern-day slavery and fair-trade in relation to the coffee trade. It was a great conversation and helped AmeriCorps members broaden their view on social justice to a global lens. Through the connections I forged at City Year, I was also nominated to be a part of JaxPrism, a board created as a community outreach initiative, including members from all over Duval County Public Schools, focusing on improving the experience of LGBTQ+ educators and students in Duval county.
Through these diverse experiences, I learned how to delegate, how to have difficult conversations with people, and how to lead with humbleness and humility. City Year has given me so many opportunities to improve myself, and I feel grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve and grow. I only hope to do an even better job next year as a Service Leader.
Do you want to learn more about the kind of work that made Milena want to return another year? Read more about our approach and impact here!