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Meet Commodore: Reflecting and preparing for next year’s service


At Casimir Pulaski High School, March was a big month for students and my City Year team. On March 4 and 5, we held an event called, “Data Chats,” where students review their grades from the first half of the year by sitting down with an AmeriCorps member, educator or community volunteer. During this chat, they plan for how they want to finish their freshman year of school. The months following were to be filled with positivity, growth and closure as we’d watch our students wrap up their first year of high school and reflect on how far they’d come, closing out relationships with the people we’d met this year.

It just so happens – those plans were not able to come to fruition! A short week later, our team was notified that the COVID-19 pandemic made in-school service unsafe, and the state of Wisconsin would be closing schools the following Monday. Thus, our virtual service would begin! In the little-more-than a month since then, City Year’s headquarters and various sites have been finding new best practices for engaging with each other and eventually – our students. 

Read more about what virtual service has looked like for our corps members since COVID-19.

The impacts of school closures and the end of service as we know it affects our students, corps members and communities. As schools struggle to implement effective new systems to teach students virtually, students suffer from lack of instruction. Those who have access to what material has been made available, may not be in a learning environment conducive to focusing on academics, especially considering how difficult it is to distract oneself from the news, social media, and everything else. If school is to start on time next year as normal, it would mean the high school students I served with will have been out of school for five months. Do you remember the futility of trying to recall mathematical formulas or historical events you learned before summer when you’d start school the next year? That was only after three months! After five months, the frustrations will be real and evident.

That frustration is similarly felt by us as AmeriCorps members. Knowing that schools are closed for the year means no more jokes with our students, no more watching them grow and overcome challenges and no more chances to “properly” wrap up some of those relationships we formed throughout the year. After dedicating 10 or more hours of our day, five days a week, to helping students develop, we want to complete the year and see them off with high spirits. Without this closure, it will be difficult for many of us to feel satisfied with our year of service and impact.

Luckily, that’s where you come in! Not to brag, but corps 10 is beyond hype – and I mean BEYOND. I can only speak for myself when I say despite all this, I’ve had a wonderful first City Year (I’m sure there are others who feel the same). As you prepare to begin for your own year of service, here’s something to consider as you get started!


Now, this doesn’t you have to be all, “Woohoo I love everyone and everything and I’ve never had a bad day in my life!” The Beloved Community (you’ll learn about it once you get here) can be an incredibly positive place, and the hope is always that one feels comfortable and welcome to express themselves if necessary.

For me, this means that a defeatist mentality can pose some serious challenges through service. Completing a year of service is no simple task, and much of my growth has come from embracing uncomfortable situations or ideas. Next year, I expect certain challenges to be made even more difficult due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but finding a group of people who will support you and learning how to take care of yourself will go a long way in giving you the energy and positivity to make your service year even better! Build those relationships, discover the “why” of your service year and watch as you and those around you grow!

Commodore HeadshotAbout the author: Commodore Williams proudly serves as a City Year Milwaukee AmeriCorps member and is a proud alum of Ohio State University. When asked why he serves, Commodore said, “I serve because I believe access to quality education within an appropriate learning environment is a right of all young people and one that is not seen fulfilled. I serve because there is more to young people than their grades, and City Year believes in the development of children as human beings as well as students.”

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