2015-02-19

Today's guest blogger is Summer Woods, an AmeriCorps Member serving at 126Q in Astoria, Queens.

For most people, the best thing about middle school is that it only happens once: braces come off, limbs become proportionate to the rest of the body, and relationships start to involve actual verbal communication. But for AmeriCorps members giving a year to work with students, service also means returning back to the most awkward years of our lives.  This week, the corps members at IS 126Q in Astoria reflect back on our own middle school experiences and how those lessons help us work with our students, or at least be living proof that middle school does end.

Alicia Holland, Bronx, NY

What was your proudest middle school accomplishment?

My best friend and I co-founded a school newspaper.

Why do you think middle school is an important age for City Year to work with?

Middle school students have a lot on their plates -- their schoolwork involves combining a lot of different academic skills, and they're just beginning to add more mature and complicated dynamics to their social interactions. Even though sometimes they don't show it, I know they appreciate and benefit from our support.

Arielle Moxey, Queens, NY

What was your worst fashion choice in middle school?

Bright purple and pink glittery flared jeans

What advice would you give now to your middle school self?

Fashion will always change, but your academic standing will leave a footprint. Continuously apply yourself to your studies. Press that extra mile in your both your homework and class assignments. Forget how it looks to your peers, because all your effort will count.

Asia Cruz, Bronx, NY

What was your worst middle school fashion choice?

A baby blue North Face coat.

Do you have a student who reminds you of yourself? How?

At the start of the year, one of my students was very shy and quiet. She did not participate and was not confident. This is how I was at the start of 6th grade, but as the year went on I changed. I started participating and raising my hand in class. I developed confidence within myself and started expressing my thoughts, much like my student.

Chiara Nodari, Pennington, NJ

What advice would you give now to your middle school self?

Don't second guess yourself and go for it. Who cares what everyone else thinks. Do what makes you happy!

What do you enjoy most about working with middle school students?

They are genuinely interested in hearing what young adults like us have to say and a lot of time they are not only receptive but actively seek out our advice.

Fred Salamone, Team Leader, Warwick, NY

What was your most embarrassing middle school moment?

Any middle school dance. Any time a slow dance song would come on I would run into the bathroom and just hang out in there until it was over.

What do you enjoy most about working with middle school students?

I love seeing my students do things they didn't think they could, whether it's solving multi-step algebraic equations or initiating a conversation. It's amazing when they begin to realize their own potential!

Jenny Chen, Queens, NY

What advice would you give to your middle school self?

It’s okay to be different. Embrace it.

Why do you think middle school is an important age for City Year to work with?

Middle school students are at a critical age of development. This is the time they begin noticing injustice and I think it's just very important for City Year to be present in their lives at this time to guide them and show them that there's someone in this world who cares about their growth and wellbeing.

Jordan Yversky, Jamestown, NY

Do you have a student who reminds you of yourself? How?

One of my students gets very caught up with social standing and it negatively impacts his grades. He loves to hang out with friends and has a kind heart, even to students different from him.

What do you enjoy most about working with middle school students?

Our students are constantly looking for the next big thing and other influences to shape themselves. We can help them make good choices.

Summer Woods, Gainesville, FL

What advice would you give now to your middle school self?

Don’t eat Oreos while wearing braces. I know you love them but it’s not worth it.

What do you enjoy most about working with middle school students now?

They're ready and willing to ponder the big questions of life but still think my jokes are funny. I love working with students who are humble enough to let you be a part of their daily challenges and gracious enough to share their pride when they surmount them.

Rosemary Ferreira, Brooklyn, NY

What was your most embarrassing moment in middle school?

When I would cry in math class during tests.

Why do you think middle school is an important age for City Year to work with?

Middle school is an important age for City Year to work with because while the age of finding oneself is beautiful it is also extremely difficult. Students at this age, especially from low-income areas of color, need the kind of positive support that affirms who they are as an individual. I think City Year provides students with that extra positive support they might've not had.

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