By Angel Lee, AmeriCorps member serving on the Bakersville Elementary School Team.
“Describe how your day went with a weather forecast.”
Or, “If you were to end your day with dinner, what type of dish would it be?”
Asking these kinds of questions during team debrief sessions was a norm for our small, tight-knit team after a long day of service. Prefacing our responses with lightheartedness allows us to be honest on how our day went and gave us time to reflect on ways to approach situations the next day. Hey, if this type of work is hard, we might as well make things fun, right?
This school year has been filled with the usual joys, tears, and laughter, along with tribulations, our students' stories, GoNoodle, Fortnite dance moves, bathroom stall painting (lots of it), and team memes in between. Every student's challenges and success, every starfish story, these are what drive us to be present at school every day.
Bakersville Elementary School consists of a community with supportive staff and students who all value City Year's presence and the work that we do, so it wasn't too hard for us when we stepped into this space at the beginning of the year. Students would greet us with high-fives, hugs, or a groggy “Hi” and “Morning” every morning during Walking Bus, and ended after-school by enthusiastically recalling how their days went on their way home. Our year has been filled with so many joys. During recess, basketball and soccer teams, jump rope squads, or the playground kingdom would yell “Hey, I want City Year to play with us! Join our team!” or the occasional “It's us versus City Year!” and we'd happily oblige. We would unsuccessfully attempt to join in and do Fortnite's “The Floss” dance (unsuccessful for me, at least). We supported them in the classroom, helping them get through their frustrations in a hard math problem, or a reading passage; listening about their struggles beyond the school doors and reminding them that they are worth so much more than other people's perceptions, that they can accomplish big things. We built strong partnerships with our teachers, school staff, and PTG, abd were present to support every school event. We prepared and executed after-school clubs, from Starfish Corps to our Biology Club. These and the school community's trust in the Bakersville team all mean a lot to us.
Of course, this team couldn't achieve all of this on our own; there's no “I” in team. All of us may have come from different parts of the U.S., backgrounds, and education, but we all found a common ground that made us closer. We started off with posing awkwardly for a team photo during last summer's Basic Training Retreat, to becoming the team that would sass each other and call each other “heartless,” and keeping score on who said what (all of this in jest). We became a team that was inseparable, where we attended team dinners on a regular basis, played trivia, and explored the mountains of New Hampshire. We underwent intricate scavenger hunts that took us through various places in Manchester, where we “followed the coordinates to the very blade of grass” and ended up in Livingston Park, where our Service Leader and Impact Manager met us with a beautiful appreciation picnic. We ate lunches on Fridays together while hanging out with friends from other school teams. We supported each other throughout the school day. We lent a listening ear to each of our joys, successes, and frustrations. We underwent struggles in and out of service. We were mindful, empathetic, patient. We created an inclusive and warm environment. We kept each other accountable. We learned how to become better friends and leaders through each other.
So, if this debrief question ever comes up in the remaining school days:
“Describe your City Year experience in the form of a quote.”
I would say:
“I couldn't have asked for a better year.”
If you or someone you know is interested in serving a year with City Year, get in touch with a local recruiter today! Applications are now being accepted on a rolling basis.