Written by Javon Cohen, serving at William M. Raines High School. 

My time with City Year Jacksonville has been a life-changing experience filled with new ideas and sparks of new personalities from Corp Members, Administrations and Staff and of course the students we serve each and every day. When I left Tallahassee, Florida in mid-July, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The only thing I knew about City Year was what was on the surface and that Corps Members worked with many lower-level students in Primary and Secondary Schools. What I did not realize is that City Year is so much more.

In my first week of BTA (Basic Training Academy), City Year introduced me to a vast amount of first- and second-year America Corp Members that I would have the pleasure of serving alongside of. This week was filled with a lot of information and build up anticipation because everyone couldn’t wait to find out what school they would be assigned to and who all will be on the team. A sense of joy filled my heart when they announced that I would be serving at my ala mater; William M. Raines High School. It was at that moment I got to meet five remarkable people that I would be working alongside this year of service, with an addition of six other unique personalities serving at our partner school, Ribault High School.

The first few months were a wrecking ball because as a first-year corps member you have to learn to adjust to the City Year life and the structure of the school’s administration and culture. At the same time you try to balance and maintain your social life with friends and family. Times can truly get stressful, but you always have to refer back to the one thing every team leader and second year will tell you: No matter what you do, make sure you get some self-care.

Fast forward a few months later, my team, my partner teacher and my students really are what make being back home special. Although the students have their days when they drive me crazy, there are always those students in each period that give me my daily dosage of laughs and smiles. I have grown to appreciate my team because they always make each day worth it. Whether it’s playing a variety of games and try to get another tally on the board, working with the students during after school tutoring and joking around to pass the time.

When you join City Year they try to tell you how challenging the work may be, but no one ever really knows what to expect. There are good days, there are bad days, and there are really bad days, but all it takes is at least one inspiring student and my team to make every day into a great one.  One thing that City Year doesn’t tell you is the amazing stories you will create and amazing people you will meet. Humbly put, my students and my team are the joy of my life here in Jacksonville. This year has sent me on a trajectory of serving in education and I will continue to pursue my passion by completing my master’s degree in Education Management after my City Year.

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