Donald Ray Batiste Jr. - City Year Alumni, CY Louisiana 2010-2011 corps member, proudly served at Glen Oaks Park Elementary in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The act of service is truly a radical act of love and underscores the value of human existence. I have always valued everyone’s experience around me and learned through observing others and being a steadfast listener of their stories, be it joy or sorrow. Prior to my involvement with City Year Louisiana (CYL) or stepping foot on the Southern University and A&M College campus, I yearned to walk boldly into a life filled with purpose, passion and servant leadership. The day City Year presented to my business class I knew a bridge to understanding exactly how my walk could start was built. Through my research, I came to realize one of City Year’s founding stories was that of UBUNTU, which means I am a person through other people. My humanity is tied to yours. Ubuntu involves a belief in a universal bond of sharing and respect that connects all of humanity. UBUNTU directly aligned with my guiding core values, and thus began my journey in building a sustainable future for all of us by improving our investment in youth.
My service experience provided the opportunity to fulfill a personal aspiration, embarking on a people driven and service oriented career. I had no prior knowledge of City Year or AmeriCorps values, founding stories, or culture; I naively assumed we were merely another program of “outsiders” coming in to save economically disenfranchised youth. My mindset shifted as I met, and over time, bonded with my fellow 2010-2011 corps members and leadership team in the Baton Rouge office of CYL. We were all members of various cultures, races, religious backgrounds, and had our own thoughts and ideas on how to effectively support the disenfranchised and underserved predominately black and brown students we were serving. This experience with my City Year Louisiana family provided the ideal environment to cultivate the Beloved Community that Dr. Martin Luther King invoked. Through becoming an active listener and valuing each other’s experiences we were able to enhance our skills and our service was even more meaningful and impactful throughout the communities we served. Our students made significant gains in Math, English & Language Arts with the help and additional support of reading and math interventions throughout the day, as well as after school. I learned so much from the teachers and staff at my school. They taught me a great deal about servant leadership through simply leading by example. Their love, dedication, and commitment to our students was infectious and has greatly influenced the trajectory of my career.
I will forever cherish the memories and our work at Glen Oaks Park Elementary School. I carry them as I now serve the students of Memphis, Tennessee as an Internal Auditor for the Shelby County School District. My career has now come full circle and my AmeriCorps service year is the bridge that helped guide me along a path to a life of service, by radically loving and embracing the human existence of our youth. In the words of Frederick Douglas, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Our youth are the future of our treasured city, state, and nation. It is our collective duty to work toward building a sustainable future for all members of our beloved community, including the most disenfranchised. We will accomplish this goal by intentionally improving our investment toward ensuring youth have the support and resources needed, both in and out the classroom, to develop their full potential.