Brooke Rozenboom is serving a second year as a Team Leader on the One West Bank team at Locke College Prepatory Academy. A University of Wisconsin-Madison alum, Brooke was motivated to return for a second year of service because of the impact she had on one of her “starfish” students. The Starfish Story is a parable our AmeriCorps members reference when recalling the students who left a lasting impression on them. In her Starfish Story, Brooke shares how her student motivated her to return for a second year.

One day in October, I noticed there was a new student in both my Math and my English class. I could tell she was struggling with her schoolwork. My gut was telling me to add her to my Focus List, so I did. 

Little by little, I started talking to her and helping her out during class. I’m not really sure what happened in the next few months, but by February we were best friends. I will never forget the first day she came to our after-school program. I could tell she was hesitant, but also super curious and secretly excited. I somehow convinced her to come every day for the rest of the year. This is the space where my relationship with her really became special. I realized that during that time, I was able to be completely myself. And she was completely herself. When I think back to that 3:15-5:00 p.m. space, what I remember is laughter. We enjoyed each other's humor and it really made the learning space fun.

By the time March came around, the City Year life started to become very tiring and difficult. I was losing motivation and felt burnt out. I didn’t want to go to class and learn more algebra or read any more chapters of Romeo and Juliet. It was hard to wake up at 5 a.m. every morning. However, this student made it all worth it. I knew that as long as I could have a five-minute conversation with her, I would be okay.

She is the reason I got up every morning and was excited to do my service. She is the reason I went home every night with a smile on my face, ready to return the following day. She always found a way to make me laugh on my hardest days. She put as much belief in me as I put in her. She stood up for me when other students were being disrespectful. She showed me just how fulfilling being a AmeriCorps member can be, and she inspired me to do it all over again.

The changes I saw in her over the year would take me forever to list. Her attendance improved, she wanted to read more, and she asked more questions. She really began to writing with a passion. Her lexile score went up nearly 300 points. She gained confidence and participated in class. She became a leader and role model to her fellow classmates. She built strong relationships with her teachers. Her curiosity grew. Her progress made me so happy. This year she found me in the City Year room one day and she couldn’t wait to tell me that she was switched into Honors English as a 10th grader.

I serve with City Year Los Angeles to be as bright of a light in a student’s life as they are in mine. Although my "starfish" has moved on to the 10th grade now and I do not get to see her everyday, she still stops by to visit. Those are my favorite days. She continues to use our after school space for support, particularly with her Spanish homework. This has been especially exciting for me because I majored in Spanish and am very passionate about it and now I get to help her learn and master it! She brings me more joy than I ever thought would be possible and I can’t wait to see her graduate in 2018!

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