Serving with City Year L.A. takes spirit, discipline, purpose, and pride, and when corps members are placed in the schools they once attended, it can also feel very personal. That’s the case at Stevenson College and Career Prep Middle School where this year not one but THREE alumni are serving as City Year AmeriCorps members.
Matthew Valenzuela, Diana Ochoa, and Jasmin Flores all grew up in Boyle Heights and attended Stevenson Middle School around the same time. Now they are back to serve in at their middle school in the community they call home.
“I see myself, I see my friends, I see my community in my students,” shared Valenzuela, a UCLA graduate. "I am here because of all the selfless mentors/educators that challenged me to grow more than I thought I could while giving so much more than what was expected."
As a young student, the opportunity to have a City Year tutor, mentor, and role model with similar experiences in the same community can empower them to recognize their full potential. Just as corps members see a younger version of themselves in their students, students also see a future version of themselves in their City Year mentor.
“I feel a personal connection to the students. When I talk to them I can share personal stories about when I attended their school, which makes it easier to relate to them. I can understand what a bad day in the community might feel like and be able to relate to them in that way,” explained Ochoa, a graduate of UC Santa Cruz.
"Coming back to Stevenson, I felt I could be proof to students that college is an option for many of us in the Boyle Heights community. I am able to identify with my students as an English-learner and as a first-generation student, which makes me excited to know more about the students I am working with. Their experiences and identities are not something that should be perceived as disadvantages, but rather a big part of what has shaped them and something that has made them resilient," said Flores, a UCSB graduate.
The Boyle Heights community is filled with brilliant young scholars who simply need extra mentorship from another young person. Just as these Stevenson College and Career Prep students had the opportunity to rise above challenges, they too hope to encourage their students to do the same. It is especially meaningful to not only learn more about their community during service but also to learn and grow with the generation of leaders being shaped for tomorrow’s future.
Are you interested in serving with City Year to inspire Los Angeles students? Apply today!