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by Nolan Benson, City Year Milwaukee AmeriCorps member serving at Dr. George Washington Carver Academy of Mathematics and Science

December and January were my two most challenging months so far as a City Year Milwaukee AmeriCorps member. My morale decreased with the temperature as December 22 grew closer. After the holidays, I felt drained throughout the first two weeks of January upon my return to the everyday rigor of service.

After two grueling months, I feel back to normal. I’ve reset myself in my routine, and I’ve reset my mindset. I have built even stronger relationships than I could’ve imagined with most of my scholars. I’m asked every day by about 10 scholars whether they can join me for lunch just so we can spend time together.

I value my relationships with my scholars over any other aspect of my service experience because I know that it’s important to highlight the positives in all of my scholars, especially after STAR testing (the standardized test that my students take a few times a year). I have already had one of my students with whom I developed a strong bond move away this year, and thinking about saying goodbye to that one scholar reminds me of how difficult it will be to say goodbye to all of them.

However, with a growth mindset approach in mind, I looked at my long-term goals and decided to apply for a Team Leader position. That may sound surprising to some, but not to the people who know me. Those two challenging months enacted many hours of self-reflection about my career and my life with my fiancée. Hopeful to start my own non-profit someday, and taking into account what my service year has taught me already, I can only imagine how much more I would learn during a year in a leadership position within City Year Milwaukee.

I used to consider myself open-minded, but that open-minded attitude pales in comparison to my mindset today. I’ve grown as a leader, an event planner, a writer, a mentor, a friend and a fiancé. My scholars inspire me every day to work to be a better individual and teammate through my service. I see City Year’s mission as a collective effort that’s part of an even bigger collective to fight for educational equality. I am currently applying for a position as a Team Leader for the 2018-19 school year. Regardless of whether I am offered a position or not, City Year has shown me a passion for social justice and activism. I plan to continue to be an activist within and well beyond my years at City Year.

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