By Jaidon White, AmeriCorps member serving on the Parker-Varney Elementary School Team.
You probably wouldn’t think that working with children would come easily to a grizzly, sailor-talking marine, and yet here we are. Granted, I’m not so grizzly, and I have long parted with my sailor-talking ways. Either way, I must admit that I’m quite surprised at how well these kids have taken to me, and how well I have taken to them.
Yes, I am proud to say that I am a Marine Corps veteran, but bigger than that, I am just a humble southern boy, born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. I come from an average family, with a few of my elders having life-long careers in teaching. I myself never thought that I would follow down that path. I have so much to learn still. Who am I to teach anyone?
Before my City Year began, I was (and still am) a college student at The Alabama State University, majoring in Computer Science. I was never happier in my life than when I was pursuing a degree at such a prestigious university. I was fascinated with learning, and absorbed by my studies. Paying for school, however, was becoming a bit of a problem. Although I qualified for my GI bill, I did not receive it, but I didn’t let this stop me from following my dreams. Instead of being defeated, I decided to find other means of funding my education and with the help of my advisors and my school, I found my way to City Year.
I was intrigued at the idea of mentoring children and I immediately started thinking of all the ways I could influence them into being bright, hard-working citizens, capable of accomplishing their dreams. I was eager to be a part of this program and, thankfully, I was accepted.
Within a matter of weeks, I would find myself hundreds of miles away from my nearest relatives, in a predominantly white area, being welcomed into the Beloved Community of City Year New Hampshire. You can definitely say that it was a bit of a culture shock, but I didn’t crack under the pressure. I knew what I came here to do and I was determined to see this through to the end so that I could successfully make an impact on these children’s lives. However, I was not prepared for the impact that they would have on me.
Upon meeting my kids, I was a bit shy at first. It was my first time working this closely with kids and I would be spending the entire school year with them. Thankfully, my children took a liking to me quickly, and I was able to form a bond with each of them that I cherish deeply. These children became my world. Their hardships were my hardships, and their successes became my successes. I took the time out to learn about each of them, and I began mentoring them and teaching them how to walk the pathway to excellence, and how to become self-reliant so that they could be leaders and think for themselves and make decisions for themselves. My favorite thing about this whole experience has been the amount of love that these children have shown me. Sometimes, before City Year I would wonder if I was really making a difference in the lives of others, and if my life would have a significant impact on the lives of others. Thanks to these kids, I never had to wonder again.
Every day when I see their faces, I am immediately reminded of who needs me the most today. Just being there for them is so important to me, because I know how much they depend on me in the classroom, and I am determined not to let them down. Sometimes, all children ever need is someone to believe in them, and outside of a school environment many of them don’t have that. When I realized this, I was assured of how important my presence was in the classroom. I am very patient with them. I allow them to make mistakes. I reassure them that it’s okay if they don’t have all the answers, and then I demonstrate how to seek the knowledge that they desire. I teach them not to pursue materialistic gains, but to pursue fulfilling lives. I teach them that their happiness comes from within, not their situations. Every time I hear one of my kids yell the word “excellence!”, I am overcome with joy.
My number one dream is for all of my students to be excellent, and so far they have shown me that they all have the potential to dream the impossible dream.
If you or someone you know is interested in serving a year with City Year, get in touch with a recruiter today! Our last application deadline is May 31st.