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Another year of meaningful service

If you interact with a City Year AmeriCorps member, you are bound to hear the term Starfish. We use this word and idea to describe a student we know we made an impact on. The term comes from one of our guiding stories, “The Starfish Story,” about a young girl who comes across a mass of beached starfish. When she begins to throw them back in the water, onlookers ask her what she is doing because she can’t save all of them, to which her response was, “Well, I saved that one.” Sometimes, the work in front of us seems daunting, but if we focus on all of the students that we can help become their best selves, we can keep it all in perspective.

Read below about Kai’s own Starfish story.

Over the course of my service year, I have built on my relationships with my students from last year and formed new ones as well. One of the growing relationships that I’ve built is with Sha’Niya. Similar to my Starfish from last year, Sha’niya and I bonded immediately after a few interactions.

At the beginning of the school year, Sha’niya was easily distracted by her classroom surroundings which put a damper on her performance. Once I started pulling her for small groups, I noticed a change in her work ethic as she consistently asked questions for clarity and participated in group discussions. Seeing Sha’niya’s potential, I encouraged and challenged her to engage in the classroom more and work through the distractions that surrounded her. By the end of September, Sha’niya and I began having lunch together once a week. During these lunches, I was able to see a different side of Sha’niya. She began to unfold her creative side and showed me a few short stories and poems that she had written in her free time. She also began to unfold the real Sha’niya, who was interested in becoming a pediatrician, who doesn’t play any sports, and who volunteers at a Boys and Girls club after school. Since September, I’ve seen a plethora of changes in Sha’niya’s work ethic. She is no longer afraid to speak up in class and ask questions. When she gets distracted in class, she can acknowledge it and pick up right where she left off.

Last week, we discussed her Lexile score and set a goal of how much she wants to grow by the end of the school year. As a constant reminder to both of us, we wrote down her goals on a sheet of paper, signed and dated it, and it is right in the front of my binder. I am so thrilled to see what is in store for Sha’niya for these last weeks of the school year.

Kai is wrapping up her second year of service as team leader at Andrew Jackson High School.

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