By Rubi Torres, corps member at Virgil Middle School

Throughout the year, join us as we follow the service of one of our corps members, Rubi Torres. Rubi serves at Virgil Middle School, the middle school she and her five other siblings attended. She has joined City Year to be an example for students just like her.

Since I began my service in September, my team and I have focused on improving student attendance, behavior, and course performance at Virgil Middle School. As tutors, mentors, and role models, we provide the capacity that helps schools meet the individual needs of students. My dedication to the work is as strong as when I last wrote for this newsletter, and I am proud of the relationships I have built with my partner teachers.

I have the privilege of working closely with 8th grade students. I’ve come to understand that challenges students face both inside and outside the campus gates can affect their ability to remain focused in class. For instance, bullying is an issue that can significantly hinder student’s confidence inside the classroom and beyond.

When I think of the impact I have made in my six months of service, I think about Natalie. When I first met Natalie in math class, she showed no enthusiasm, as she drew on the rims of her notebook, quietly hiding her eyes beneath her bangs. Her eyes would wander off anywhere else beside the front of the class, where the teacher stood and taught the daily lesson.

During one of our first conversations, Natalie made it clear that she disliked math. Checking in with previous teachers and looking over data that has been accumulated over time—test scores, grades, work habits, etc.—confirmed the struggle Natalie had with the subject. I advised Natalie to give our after school program a try, but she did not attend.

Several weeks into the school year, Natalie started to open up to me. She told me that she couldn’t stay after school because she was responsible for picking her younger sister up from school and looking after her. Natalie’s learning was being put on hold to help care for her family. She also admitted that she was being bullied at school, a factor that triggered her difficulty to focus in class. I came to realize that were many factors at play that could potentially derail Natalie from successfully completing 8th grade.

After Natalie began to trust me, we began to work even more closely together during class, and her grades started to improve. Today Natalie demonstrates a better understanding and even a slight interest in math. She currently has a “B” in the class and continues to try her best. I look forward to continuing to mentor and tutor Natalie, helping her to stay on track to graduate middle school this summer.

My impact on Natalie has truly been the highlight of my service, seeing that being invested in my students can have such positive results. In Natalie’s case, I have learned about perseverance and attempting to understand my student’s individual experiences inside and outside of the classroom. Furthermore, this year has taught me that unlocking the potential of students like Natalie takes having an open mind and being patient, and also takes the investment of individuals that won’t ever let the students settle for less than their best possible self.

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