Hello, my name is Uniqua Adams. I am the Team Leader for the Brewers Community Foundation team proudly serving at Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts. I’m bringing to you straight off the press 5 Things I Learned During My 1st year of Service with City Year Milwaukee!
How to be financially stable while trying to be extra fabulous.
Let’s be real, between getting my hair, nails, and brows done I am looking at around $350 every 2 weeks! The stipend lifestyle literally humbles you. Mapping out bill expenses, groceries in the home, and making sure your appearance is presentable can be taxing on your accounts. With the help of foodshare, I didn’t need to use my stipend for groceries. Yay me! Bills are bills so you can’t miss out on those but balancing your checks to assure everything gets paid for is a must. I was able to set up a system with my bank to stay organized. It left me with enough money to be sure my nails, hair and brows were complete and professional looking. It’s all about balance and City Year surely taught me how to do so.
Learning how much power I hold as a black woman.
The most criticized. The most forgotten. The most talked about. Ladies and gentlemen...the black woman. People might see this as something that is a problem and of course it is. But I am one to look at the glass ½ full instead of ½ empty. If you forgot about me, I promise I am going to do something that you’ll remember. I was at a pretty low place emotionally when I first started City Year and through the multitude of support I received from amazing black women, my strength was reestablished. Knowing who I am as a woman helped me become a better leader for the young black girls inside of the classroom, I served in. It allowed me to become a better mentor but more importantly, a role model. It is great to show students that you aren’t perfect, and City Year told me it is okay to sit with your mistakes but reminded me that what you do afterwards is what makes you remarkable.
Find the joy factor in my work.
I serve extensive hours - walking outside before the sunrise to ending the day when the moon stares at you. I don’t complain about the work because it’s what I pride myself in. Sometimes with the lack of sunlight, you can become sad a lot, so we must remember the things that makes us happy and surround ourselves with positive energy. Seriously though, can you go an entire day without laughter or even smile? I barely can go 10 minutes without smiling! Through the long hours, I laugh with my team, I smile even when I don’t want to, but I also remind myself of my purpose. My purpose brings the greatest joy to me because it’s for the students. It’ll always be for the students.
Now for the fourth thing I learned: networking, networking AND MORE NETWORKING!
Being able to say what you do for a living in one sentence, being given notes to go over before you sit down and talk with someone, and how to firmly shake someone’s hand is only a sliver of the things City Year taught me to do professionally. I feel like someone super important when I have a staff member debriefing me on who I am going to sit across from and what the contents of the conversation are. Being able to watch those around you engage in conversations then to be mentored on how to actually do what it is that they do is amazing and really exciting! Everyone wants to know about your service.
And the final thing I learned last year...drum roll please…is my purpose. Starting City Year, I was honestly lost on my path. I did not know what I wanted to do or how to even go about figuring it out. Working with youth sounded cool but what did it mean? Was I going to become a teacher? Did I go to college for the wrong thing and waste $50,000? All the questions going through my head until I realized I was in the right place at the right time and everything leading me up to this experience helped shape me into a phenomenal leader. One day last year, I was doing small group support and one of my social emotional focus list students came into my classroom. I paused and talked her through a situation that would totally change her life. If handled the right way, it would become one of the reasons why she would want to give life and every opportunity she’s offered her all. It was there, she hugged me and told me when she graduates her diploma will be dedicated to me. It’s the little things like that in which I found my purpose, which is to break down barriers that won’t allow black and brown babies to succeed. It’s showing that shy, quiet black girl that I too went through a lot but that alone pushes me to be better than I was yesterday. And finally, to instill hope into our young people that education has not failed them.
My first service year was filled with tons of growth, finding myself as a black woman and learning from everyone around me. For that I am thankful, honored and blessed to have found City Year Milwaukee and given the opportunity to greet and cheer the superstars we have in our schools, our scholars.
Article written by Uniqua Adams, City Year Milwaukee Team Leader on the Brewers Community Foundation team at Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts