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Near the end of my 8th grade year at Markham Middle School in Watts, I was moved from my pre-Algebra class to an Algebra 1 class. I struggled with the new concepts and dreaded going to class. In a class with 30 other students, my teacher was too busy to give me individual support.   

Luckily, there was someone in the class who was able to help me. She was younger than the teacher and I felt like I could relate to her. She was like a good friend. I didn’t know much about why she was there. I just knew she wore a bright yellow jacket and Timberland boots and she was the only person I could rely on for help with algebra.  If it wasn’t for Ms. Erin I would have ditched and probably failed algebra. Thankfully, she was there to give me the extra help I needed to pass and culminate on time.  

Ten years later, as I was preparing for a career after graduating from Cal State Northridge, I attended a job fair on campus and there it was…that bright yellow jacket hanging in one of the booths. I remembered Ms. Erin and went over to find out what City Year was.  

I learned that City Year AmeriCorps members are sent into schools to help kids like me realize our full potential, to be that role model we need in our lives to gain the confidence we need to pass our classes.  

In that moment, I knew I wanted to be part of changing the world. Today, I am proudly serving at Santee Education Complex, not too far from Markham, helping kids, who like me, just need that “friend” in the class who they can turn to and get the support they need to believe in themselves.  

I know I am making a difference when I see my student Hector go from telling me not to waste my time with him because “I’m just going to fail,” to now opening up to me and finishing his assignments on time. It doesn’t take a miracle to help students, it takes a caring adult who knows where they come from.  

Esmeralda Diaz proudly serves as a City Year AmeriCorps member on the Rosenthal Family Foundation Team at Santee Education Complex.   


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