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Why I serve in the city that raised me

My name is Fernie Torres and I proudly serve as a City Year Milwaukee AmeriCorps member on the Julia A. Uihlein team at Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School. I serve because some people look down at the students with low grades, rocky backgrounds and uncontrollable social emotional behavior, but what they don’t see is the knowledge behind their eyes. I am here to give a voice to our students. I believe everyone deserves an education and the benefit of the doubt—that their history does not define who they are now, or where they can go.

Each morning I wake up very early and arrive at Mitchell at 7:00 in the morning ready to serve. After my team connects about the day, I head to my partner teacher, Ms. Velazquez’s classroom, where I support with third-grade bilingual. We have an incredibly strong relationship. I am able to support my students because I know Ms. Velazquez trusts me.

As in any classroom, there are some students who struggle and need additional support. This is one of the things I love about being a student success coach. I am able to support these students.

One of these students is Alec*. I work with him on developing social and emotional skills. Each day Alec and I set a goal for his classroom behavior including reducing the times he talks out of turn or interrupts the class. At the end of the day, we reflect on his goal, and share some “glows” and “grows” of the day. A glow is a positive thing from Alec’s day and a grow is something he hasn’t accomplished, yet. When it comes to the “grows” we make a plan for what can go better tomorrow.

Each day, my students are the reason I am excited to serve. My students look forward to intervention time, and hold each other accountable in these sessions. They also encourage each other.  I work to take care of them, but I know, they also take care of ME! I love it when they say “When I grow up, I want to be a City Year!” By working as a team along side my partner teacher, I know my students are getting the support they need.

I serve because I have always had teachers who looked out for me and have supported me. In fact, one of those teachers is currently my executive director at City Year Milwaukee, Meralis T. Hood. Meralis has been a part of my life in a number of roles including my second grade teacher, my assistant principal when I was a student at Bay View High School, my mentor AND now, my executive director. I want to be there for my students just like she has always been there for me.

*Student’s name changed to protect privacy of the student. 

Are you, or someone you know, interested in mentoring, coaching, and inspiring young people in Milwaukee? Apply to serve in next year’s corps today. 

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