Today's blog is written by Abbey Corona, a second year AmeriCorps Member serving on the George Washington Carver Elementary School, who reflects on her gratitude for service. 

We all know that Thanksgiving time is all about being thankful. As children, we learn that on this day we tell our family "thank you" and we express how grateful we are for the things we have. We give during this season,by giving food to the people who don’t have any or donating clothes to those who need them, or we give gifts to kids who are may not get any otherwise. This is officially the season of giving, but I always think to myself: Shouldn’t we give all the time and not just for one season? When I serve, I am not only helping others but I also feel grateful for what I have, whether it's for my family or the food on my table.

This year of service with City Year Jacksonville, I have seen more than just the challenges that individual students face but that the community faces as well. The East Coast recently suffered Hurricane Mathew, which hit Jacksonville in October. A good part of our city was out of power and Jacksonville Beach as well as St. Augustine was hit with tons of water. Those who live in those areas ended up with no power as well as damage to their homes. When I grew up in Chicago I saw big storms happen on the news, and while I would feel bad about what those people are going through, now that I live in Florida, I can truly empathize with how those impacted by the storm feel. At City Year it is our job as AmeriCorps Members to not only help our students but also our community and I am grateful for having the opportunity to do so. 

One of the difficult aspects of giving a year of service is that we may not be able to see the end result of our efforts. who graduates or what their reading levels are. After this year of service, I won't know. We help our students intensively for one year and then leave and a new team comes in. This idea of serving without seeing the end result brings to mind one of City Year's Founding Stories, Cathedral Building:

There once was a traveler who journeyed all over the globe in search of wisdom and enlightenment. In the midst of one village, he came upon a great deal of noise, dust, and commotion. He approached the nearest laborer and asked, “Excuse me, I’m not from this village. May I ask what’s going on here?” The laborer replied curtly, “Can’t you see? I’m busting rocks.” The traveler approached a second laborer doing the same thing and asked the same question. The second laborer replied, “Can’t you see? I’m earning a living to support my family.” The traveler then approached a third laborer who was also breaking up rocks and posed the question a third time. With a broad smile and a gleam in his eye, the third laborer replied with great pride: “Can’t you see? We’re building a cathedral.”

– Author unknown, Adapted from “The Cathedral Within” by Bill Shore

We work so hard for a whole year trying to #makebetterhappen for our community and the students, but sometimes we will never see the end result. However, I am lucky to have had the opportunity to see progress in some of the students I worked with last year. Last year, I served as a Mid-Year AmeriCorps Member at YMLA/YWLA at Eugene J. Butler Middle School. As a Mid-Year AmerCorps Member, I began my service in the middle of the school year and I had the opportunity to serve in a 6th grade ELA class. When I arrived at the school, one of my students was on a 4th grade reading level. We worked closely together to improve her reading. One day she ran up to me very excited and showed me that she was now at an 8th grade reading level. I felt so lucky to live that moment with my student and I was so happy for her. In my second year of service, this time at George Washington Carver Elementary School, I have also had the opportunity to witness successes and build relationships with my students. One of my students was picking out pictures to color and when she found one she liked, she nodded and said, "I'm going to color that one for you!" I was surprised, it said "family" on it. When I pointed this out to her she said, "I know, you are family!" I was stunned that she saw me this way and after she left I just sat at my desk and reflected, I realized that I am capable of making a difference in the lives of others.

I am thankful for City Year for giving me the opportunity to serve my students and give them the extra support in their education that they deserve and to all the people who have helped me through this City Year experience. While it may sometimes feel like we are "busting rocks," the times when we can see the impact in our students makes it worth it. 

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