City Year Philly Impact Manager Spotlight (Part 2): Star Taylor
In this multi-part blog series, we’re spotlighting three City Year Philly (CYP) Impact Managers who are in various stages of their CYP career journeys and each brings a distinct perspective to the role. Today, we’re interviewing Star Taylor, Senior Impact Manager at Harrington Elementary School. Star began with CYP as an AmeriCorps member during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years. She has since worked as an Impact Manager for the past five years, and has additionally served as a Site Equity Point.
Can you tell us a bit about your career path before becoming an Impact Manager? How did you learn about the IM job, and what drew you to the role and to working for City Year Philly?
Before I became an Impact Manager, I was a City Year Philly AmeriCorps member for two years. I served as a first-year AmeriCorps member from 2014-2015 at Thurgood Marshall School in a 6th grade classroom, and I returned for a second year as a Project Leader on the Civic Engagement Team. I knew I wanted to come back and be an Impact Manager because I really enjoyed my time as a Corps member, and I knew the importance of the role. I wanted to support other AmeriCorps members through their service years.
Before joining City Year, I studied journalism and I worked for magazines, radio shows, and online platforms. I knew I wanted to get into education, but I didn’t want to go back to school and collect more student loans. I already knew through my own lived experiences that there was injustice in the education system, but through working in the journalism field I was able to learn more and hear from educators, and I knew I wanted to be part of the solution. Someone told me about City Year, and I decided to serve where I was most needed. And after that decision, the story just started to write itself—everything else happened so naturally.
Star (white shirt) with her 2021-22 AmeriCorps team at Harrington Elementary School.
What are the most important skills from your time as a CYP AmeriCorps member that translate to your role as an Impact Manager?
As an AmeriCorps member, I learned how to be more flexible. A lot of our work relies on the cooperation and collaboration of others at our school—the administration, teachers, students, everyone at the school in one point in time. I also had to learn how to adapt to my students’ needs to better support them.
In my role now as an Impact Manager, I often quote the OutKast lyric, “You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather.” There’s a zero percent chance that what I plan will go exactly how I envisioned it. My experience as an AmeriCorps member taught me how to become a great problem solver, and that shows up in my position as an Impact Manager.
“Our scholars are extremely intelligent, creative, and hilarious. My 6th graders that I worked with in 2015 graduated from high school this past May—that’s been one of my proudest moments while working at City Year, because working with those students is the reason I’m still here today.”
What’s the most rewarding or exciting part of your job? What motivates you to do this work?
As an Impact Manager I don’t work too closely with students, but when I do it’s really rewarding. Our scholars are extremely intelligent, creative, and hilarious. My 6th graders that I worked with in 2015 graduated from high school this past May—that’s been one of my proudest moments while working at City Year, because working with those students is the reason I’m still here today. I continue to do this work because I know what our scholars are capable of, and I know that inequitable systems mean underresourced schools in which our students cannot thrive. I’m here to make sure I’m countering these inequities in any way that I can.
What does education equity mean to you?
To me, education equity means that our Black and Brown scholars can walk into any school, regardless of their zip code, and receive adequate resources and support to be successful. I don’t think our students just need a growth mindset; they need society to stop being racist. Our society looks at statistics and data from assessments and blames our students for failing in a racist system designed to block their success. Education equity means that we can stop teaching our students how to adapt to broken systems, and we can start teaching them how to flourish in a working one.
“Education equity means that we can stop teaching our students how to adapt to broken systems, and we can start teaching them how to flourish in a working one.”
What’s the best piece of advice that you give to your AmeriCorps members?
I tell my team all the time to be patient with yourself, your students, and each other. You learn by experience and you’re going to make mistakes in the beginning, and that’s okay. Mistakes are an important part of any transformation, and it takes willingness to learn from them. There are going to be bumps and challenges along the way, but you’re going to overcome them.
I also tell my Corps members to prioritize building relationships with their students before they try to do anything else. It’s hard to sit down with a student and try to work on math or literacy without really taking the time to establish that foundation and form a relationship. It’s a year of service, and you’re not going to see immediate results. When I was an AmeriCorps member, I came in thinking that I was going to just help my students grow, and over time I realized that I was growing alongside them.
What’s your favorite place to visit or activity to do in Philly that you like to share with your Corps members?
I really like to eat. My favorite restaurants are Kings and Queens Liberian Cuisine in Upper Darby and Spice 28 on 13th Street in Center City. I also really like being outside in Philly, especially during the summer. Everyone’s favorite park right now is the rooftop park Cira Green, but I also like Forbidden Drive in the Wissahickon, and Fairmount Water Works behind the Art Museum.
Are you considering a year of service or do you know someone who is? City Year Philly is currently accepting applications for the 2022-23 service year! To learn more and start your application, visit cityyear.org/apply-now.
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