By Emily Ward, AmeriCorps member serving on the Rice Family Foundation Team at Smart Pope Livingston Elementary School

With the holidays quickly approaching it is time that we remind ourselves of all the wonderful people in our lives that we are thankful for. Many would start by saying that they are thankful for their families and the people that they are closest to or that they have known for the longest. While I am truly thankful for my family and my longtime friends, I am also so thankful for my new family and friends in City Year.

Jumping into this adventure head first seemed daunting because what we do takes more from us than we feel like we can give. A few times it has even felt like this marathon we volunteered to participate in will never end, even though the finish line creeps closer every day. In those tough times, I feel so thankful that there is my Smart Pope family and the rest of the AmeriCorps members there for support. They have been there to help each of us end on a smile no matter what has happened during the day. Each AmerCorps member in their own individual way has given our team so much strength that it feels like we can do anything as long as we do it all together. While we won’t yet have the data to demonstrate the impact of all of the hard work we have put in with our students (It is our first year at Smart Pope Livingston Elementary School), the relationships that we get to build with each other and our students demonstrate everyday that we do #makebetterhappen.

City Year and my time in Jacksonville has given me more to be thankful for in such a short time than I ever thought possible. There are the wonderful new people that I get the opportunity to connect with on a deeper level than I ever would have before, the unconditional support from those around me, and the sincere joy that we see in our students. These are the things that I am most thankful for this year and will continue to be thankful for as this experience helps me grow and change. 

Follow all the #CYJaxGivesThanks moments on our blog, Twitter, and Instagram this month.
Follow the adventures of the team at Smart Pope Livingston Elementary School on Instagram @cyjax_splivingston.

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