Our team was the second City Year team to serve at Casimir Pulaski High School. Pretty new right? A lot of our students had never seen the red jackets before, they never had a student success coach in their classrooms, and they didn’t quite know what we did. Last year’s team already did an amazing job of building connections with the teachers and staff (which we were very grateful for) so this year became all about building strong, meaningful relationships with the students. And this is where Pulaski 2018-2019 excelled.
Walk into one of our freshman classrooms, and you will hear student’s voices calling out their City Year’s name. Hands up everywhere waving them over, everyone desperate to get some help from the person they know has their back. Head into the City Year room and you’ll probably find four or five students always hanging out or stopping by just to see their favorite City Year’s face. After school, students of all grades rush to the library to get homework help, play some card games or just spend time in a safe place.
Each AmeriCorps member has brought something unique to the team and our students this year. Stella, who has specialized in bilingual math and English, made amazing connections with her students. They constantly laughed during her sessions and coming to her for help during class. Her students felt comfortable telling her anything, from their career dreams to their personal problems to their latest crush. She has established the perfect combination of role model and friend.
Mabel, our monolingual science City Year, has pushed our students to be the best they can be and made progress in leaps and bounds. Her students know how to work hard and do their very best because she always supported them. Students always came into the City Year room asking specifically for her, knowing that she is the person that will always have their back.
Larry, our monolingual math City Year, has taken students under his wing and become someone many of our students look up to. Larry always has a motivational speech ready to inspire his students and a bright smile when inviting them into class. Students were excited just to see him, and he has influenced many students to be more respectful, responsible and mature. He has been a great role model and made his math class fun, educational and a place for every student to learn.
Arsalan, our monolingual English City Year, has given students opportunities for enrichment they wouldn’t have had without him. His chess club during our after school space was wildly popular and has given students something to look forward to after school. He is always quick to say hi to students and ask them how they are. No student is forgotten when Arsalan is in the room.
Jeesenia, our Team Leader, has worked tirelessly to make the City Year room a safe place for any student to be. When students of any grade visited the City Year room, they knew they could talk to her and have a place to cool down, take a brain break or have an ear to listen. Even without her own classroom, Jeesenia made lasting relationships and supported our young students. Many students regularly came into the City Year room to talk to her and they miss her a lot when she’s gone.
Sinclair, our Impact Manager, has continued supporting last year’s students as well as this year's freshmen. Sophomores still come to the City Year because they know Sinclair will be a familiar, friendly face. He also worked hard to get to know as many freshmen as possible. He is quick with a funny dad joke or to offer words of advice or play a game of basketball. A few students even started referring to him as “boss” and love when he makes an appearance in classes or in the City Year after school space.
As a team, we have grown close to our students, as mentors, tutors and as friends. We've shared joys and struggles. There have been tears shed and a lot of smiles. After a year together, of lessons on the chalkboard, tons of note taking, exams, projects, graduation advice, life talks motivational speeches, high fives, hugs and laughs, these are the students we will never forget.
Article by Tessa Rhodes, City Year Milwaukee AmeriCorps Member