be_ixf;ym_202405 d_28; ct_50 YES! I want to make a difference TODAY!

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Joining City Year


There will be days that will test you, and you’ll contemplate quitting. But you persevere for a reason. One of my favorite City Year values is Service To A Cause greater than yourself. Every time I’ve thought about leaving, which has been pretty seldom, I think about how I’m not just quitting on myself. I’m quitting on kids who have had a lot of people quit on them.

During our session two weeks ago, one of my kids said that every time an educator puts effort into me, they give up on me because it’s too much, so I know you will eventually, too. My response was you know I’ve been there, but if you challenge me, I’ll challenge you too, and we’ll both be better people because of it.

That stuck with me. I work with eighth graders who have gone through the brunt of the system. They’ve had that experience of people caring about them and then leaving. I don’t want to be that person in their lives. And every time I’ve thought about leaving, I remind myself that’s not the person I want to be.



In your life and your work, some rewards transcend financial. That was another point of hesitancy before I joined. If you’ve seen my closet, you know I love clothes; if you’ve seen my bathroom, you know I love makeup; if you’ve seen my bank account, you know I generally have spending problems. But I’ve had jobs where I’ve made 3,000 a month and worked hard for that 3,000 a month, and those don’t compare at all to this job. I’ve never been more eager to get up, start my day, go to work, and give it everything I have before this job. The work we do is essential, and that’s more important than anything else I’ve done in my life.



Nothing will ever be stagnant—work, mental health, relationships, etc. There will be loads of hiccups and triumphs and misfires. Things are ever-changing for better or for worse. You have all the power to decide for yourself whether or not you’ll come out better or worse from those things. Being an adult is hard, but through this experience, I have learned a lot about myself and what it means to be a person. Keep going when you feel stuck, when you’re at your highs, and when you’re at your lows. A lot of growing up is about perseverance.



You will become more responsible than you were when you first walked into the City Year building. I’m lucky I started this job at 22, and while I’m still learning the ropes of responsibility if I had joined when I turned 18, I absolutely would not have had the same abilities for this job as I do now, and that’s further evolved these past couple of months.

You’re not just responsible for yourself. You’re responsible for someone greater than yourself. You’re responsible for these kids. They put a lot of faith in you as someone to look up to and be on their side. Your absence is noticed. The heart you pour into them is noticed. Your time, effort, and energy is noticed. If you slack off, don’t show up, don’t pull through for them, that’s noticed more than anything. They need you to be consistent and reliable. It is your responsibility to be that for them.



If kids think you’re cool, they will adore you. If you start on a wrong foot, it might be a bumpier ride. Those first impressions are so vital. Technically, my friend gave me this advice before I started, but it was honestly phenomenal advice. When I say this, I don’t mean the artificial or performative “coolness.” That’s extremely obvious and won’t go over well. I don’t mean to be “chill” or permissive; establish yourself as an adult. Don’t force it. I mean, be yourself, treat them with respect, show them kindness, and build trust. Be a person on their team, and they’ll be on yours too. I’ve had multiple kids say they dislike teachers because they don’t show them respect therefore the kids do not have respect for them, which is where problems arise. In my experience, the positive relationship I’ve cultivated with my kids has formed a relationship where they want to do well and maintain that positive relationship. I also want to keep that positive relationship, which has built trust and mutual respect. Many kids don’t have safe spaces at school or sometimes at home, so being that person is really important, and having that is important to them. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the phrase “caring is cool” on cheesy social media posts, but caring is cool and goes a long way.


Related stories

Black History Month, to me, means celebrating. If you were to ask what it meant to me when I was...

Read more about What Black History Month Means to Me

For far too long, Black American History has been relegated to the margins of the American narrative, unjustly dismissed as...

Read more about The Importance of Black American History to Me

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their vital roles...

Read more about Black History Month: What it Means to Me
National Strategic Partners
National Partners