What made you join and continue your service in City Year?

City Year has had an immense influence in my life. As a graduate from the Philadelphia school system, I had the privilege to serve in the City Year Heroes program; first as a Young Hero during my middle school years, and then a City Hero, during my high school years. This group of students met on weekends to do things related to community service and leadership. With this program, I had the first-hand opportunity to work with diverse students.

As a student, City Year supported me in striving for my goals, so I wanted to do that for another generation as an adult. When I read City Year’s value, 'Service to Cause Greater Than Self',I realized that the opportunity to serve as a City Year Team Leader is once in a lifetime. I believe that my current experience and development in my skills as a Team Leader will also be a stepping stone into a great direction for my career.

Has there been a student that you are especially proud of?

Max was one of my 6th graders. She was impatient and quick to get upset. She had built up a wall, and refused to cooperate with me. I consistently tried to connect with her. After a while, Max and I finally broke down the barriers and she allowed me to help her in math and we worked together to build her self-confidence. Previously, her lack of confidence caused her to avoid making eye contact with me while talking; her eyes were always on the floor. Now, she is confident, and at the top 6th-grade class, everything about her behavior has changed. I believe that Max was just searching for someone to understand and listen to her. I cannot wait to see the progress she will make.

What advice would you give to incoming AmeriCorps Members?

1. Have an open mind, when you work with students with different backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs. A willingness to try and an accepting heart will help overcome challenging situations.

2. The communities and schools we serve in do not need saving because they are capable, they just need our help and support.

3. When you go into the year, remind yourself why you wanted to serve in the first place; those reminders will help you during the times when you want to give up.

The work of Valynda and her team at Grover Washington Middle School is made possible by Team Sponsor, PwC and Program Sponsor, New York Life.

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