AmeriCorps Spotlight: Meet First Year City Year ACM Fred Lee
Thomas A. Edison High School
Works with 9th and 10th graders
Subjects: Algebra 2, Earth Science, and English
With the first half of the service year having come to an end, City Year AmeriCorps members are acclimated to the work they’re doing alongside students and teachers across Philadelphia. It’s usually around this time that corps members say that the ‘honeymoon phase’ is over as they reflect on the service year thus far and even think back to registration day when they arrived at the City Year office. Some were eager, others were nervous, while others were simultaneously eager and nervous about what the next 10 months of their lives would hold.
Meet Fred Lee, a first–year AmeriCorps member serving 9th and 10th graders at Thomas A. Edison High School. Just a few months ago he was new to the organization, but now he is entering the second half of the service year looking to continue making an impact within his school community.
How did you first find out about City Year?
I have a family member who works within the Philadelphia School District and there is a City Year AmeriCorps team at her school. She knew that I had an interest in education and would tell me about the program. I had the opportunity to come in and talk to the City Year team and get an idea of what the corps experience was like.
What initially brought you to City Year?
Before coming to City Year, I worked as a substitute teacher in Florida, so I had some experience working with students already. City Year allows me to work within a school, not in the same capacity as a teacher, but I am still able to develop relationships with students over an extended period. When you are a substitute teacher, it is usually hard to develop relationships seeing as though you usually aren’t in a singular classroom for a consistent period.
The biggest difference between being a substitute teacher and my current City Year experience is the relationships that I can develop with the students. As a City Year AmeriCorps member, I can work with individual students to help them achieve their goals. As a substitute teacher, I am focused on the goals of the entire class, for a short window of time so the focus on a student is not there as much.
How valuable are the relationships that you build with students as an AmeriCorps member?
The relationships that you build with students are probably one of the most important aspects of what we do as City Year AmeriCorps members. Without a relationship, it is almost impossible to get the students to do what’s needed and ultimately help them succeed.
How has the team experience been for you so far?
The team experience has been good so far. At times things do become challenging. But overall, having different leaders that are a part of the team, like our Team Leader and Impact Manager, helps unify us and keep us on track. I have also been able to get a lot of cool things done collaboratively with my teammates.
What are some things that stick out to you about the organization?
The culture is heavily focused on data metrics and we must always have very high energy. I also see the impact that we have a chance to make.
What has been your most memorable interaction with a student so far?
At one point, I was working with a student who sat in the back of the classroom and got in trouble a lot for being on their phone. I found out that she would take photos of everything on the board and zoom in so that she could see the notes. She eventually got moved to the front of the classroom and her academic performance did a 180.
How much of a role do AmeriCorps members play in the schoolhouse? Do you feel valued in the work you’re doing?
Specifically, with my partner teachers and the students I work with, I feel valued. Typically, there is a level of respect that the students have for City Year AmeriCorps members and it feels good to have that type of rapport with the students.
What are you looking forward to most during the second half of the service year?
I am looking forward to seeing what my impact has been compared to the start of the year. I am also looking forward to doing more actively engaged activities with students outdoors; it’s just way too cold right now.
What are your Life After City Year (LACY) plans?
I applied to Brazil for the Fulbright Program and earlier this month I found out that I got to the semifinal stage. Should that not work out, I am thinking about coming back to City Year as a Team Leader. I would also like to go to graduate school for international education management, or something along the line with education in an international setting. City Year has been a good starting point for me to get to my end goal. It has allowed me to take initiative in a lot of the things that I want to do personally, while also gaining experience working with kids. The job is high–stress, but also high–reward.
For any prospective corps member, what is one piece of advice that you could give?
You get out what you put in. You need to have reasonable expectations of what your impact will be. You will also get a lot out of this experience if you are actively seeking out ways to do something bigger.
If you are looking for an opportunity to develop yourself while also making an impact on young people, click here to apply to serve with City Year Philadelphia.
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