be_ixf;ym_202303 d_31; ct_50

Creating Change with City Year Little Rock

I spent most of my college career studying social justice. To bring about change, we must learn about past injustices and apply that knowledge by supporting people groups impacted by systemic racism. After graduating, I felt the call to volunteer my time to help underserved community members who lived in under-resourced areas. I decided to serve a year with City Year Little Rock. While serving as a Student Success Coach, I am privileged to work with 8th-grade English students in an under-resourced school. This year of service has given me hands-on experience in practicing social justice. Every day is a new chance to provide my students with more resources for their educational needs.

One of the ways that I support my students is by allowing them to use me as a sounding board—making myself available to be there through any of their difficult times. Building positive relationships with the students and supporting their Social Emotional Learning is one of the unique program features of serving with City Year. As a near-peer mentor, students feel comfortable sharing struggles and challenges with me that they may not share with their teachers.

My service year with City Year has been a community-focused experience. It has also opened up opportunities for me and the other Corps members to volunteer on Saturdays outside the school. When we volunteered at the food bank, I learned that one in five Arkansans is food insecure; while loading hundreds of potatoes into big bags to be picked up by local families. Realizing this food insecurity statistic has helped me put a face to hunger. It means out of every class of twenty-five students I serve, five students have to worry about where their next meal comes from. It is sobering information, but it is vital to remember.

We were also allowed to serve at Camp Aldersgate Fish Fry, which allowed us to work in an accessible camp focused on giving handicapped youth a fun and educational outdoor experience. These opportunities were not only rewarding for me, but they also taught me about disenfranchised groups within my community. These additional service opportunities have allowed my service year to have a more significant impact throughout Little Rock and Arkansas.

Social justice has to start with educating ourselves and those around us. I have been able to tell stories of my service that have inspired others to learn and serve themselves. When we share stories, are committed to learning, and help others, we can change our group values within any community. If a society values tangible change, we can create more opportunities for those without them. Creating opportunity is the goal of social justice and my service at City Year Little Rock. I am so thankful to take a year to advocate for people in my community. I genuinely believe in the City Value: Social Justice for all. My year of service has opened my eyes to a more precise life focus and goal. I plan to dedicate my life to building a more just, equal, fair, and compassionate world.

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