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Why I Serve

I have loved community service and volunteer work for as long as I can remember, from packing bags of food during the summer at Helping Hands to volunteering at Red Cross. During the pandemic in 2020, I had to do most of my volunteer and community service work virtually. While I still felt the impact I was making on my community, it felt very different from doing groundwork and physically being out and in my community. I wanted to do more. I returned to the work field once the smoke cleared from the pandemic. I was working and relatively happy with where I was, but there was a distinct void within myself. I have said for so long that I want to be a part of something bigger than myself. I came across a shared social media post about City Year Little Rock’s open hiring positions. Thankfully, having attended schools within the Little Rock School District my whole life, I was fully aware of City Year and its great work. With a quick application and a reference from a family friend, I applied and was offered a position within a couple of weeks.

I’m a quick learner. At least, I think I am. Nothing prepared me for the information overload I would take in during my service year. The many things I have learned in training do not compare to what I have learned on the job, like learning to navigate being introduced to new personalities in your peers, dealing with moody pre-teens, and showing grace to everyone around you, including yourself. Showing grace has been my biggest lesson of all. Many of my students have endured things I couldn’t imagine surviving, let alone in middle school. To know from my students that they miss me when I am gone when I didn’t think they would care or actively look for me in the hallways is why I serve.

I have had some tough days mentally and emotionally doing this service year. Struggling with imposter syndrome and feeling like my work wasn’t paying off has been hard to grasp a hold of. I like to see results and to know that my work is worthwhile.

City Years uses founding stories as a training tool for AmeriCorps Members, and the Starfish Story resonates with me. To sum it up, several starfish had washed up the shore to a beach, and a young girl began throwing each starfish back into the ocean one by one in an effort to save them. An older man approaches her, commenting: “You can’t begin to make a difference.” The girl seemed defeated momentarily before picking up another starfish and hurling into the ocean as far as she could. She looked at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference with that one.”

The understanding that we hold in our hands the power to change a life, a mind, or a circumstance, has been a driving motivator for me. Pushing me and helping shape me into a better human while actively impacting the lives of the youth in my community is why I serve. Things that seem small to some, like providing a smile to a sad face in the hallway or a listening ear to someone who wants to be heard, are why I serve. The long hours and the not-so-good days do not compare to the smiling faces of the students whose day was made just because I was there.

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