Written by Eva Loredo, AmeriCorps Member currenly serving with City Year Sacramento

Day One―I’ve barely been introduced to my afterschool class of tumultuous third graders when I’m blindsided by student squabbles, loaded fights, and a tantrum, or two, of epic proportions. Finally managing to calm my group of kids, out yells Kai with a witty remark directed at me. For a solid week I let Kai’s comments, snickering, and overuse of pop culture references get the best of me but, that’s when I realized I had a new best friend to make.

My starfish is the second youngest in a family of nine. Often, I’d see him get swallowed up by the bigger personalities of his brothers and sisters, and in those moments I could see a different Kai, I could see a sweet and quiet boy itching to be noticed and with the potential for great things both in and out of the classroom.

Each day I seized any opportunity I could to muster a smile, wave hello, and belt his name out with as big a breathe as I could to show him I was around and cared. During the afterschool program, I made it my goal to personally get to know Kai and promised myself to forgive and forget situations laid in the past between us and move forward with improving Kai’s behavior and academic confidence. It made me so happy two to three months later into school when Kai asked me to make math review sheets and daily prompts for him once he was done with his homework. Day by day I slowly began to notice Kai’s increased respect towards adults and peers alike and saw a lot more of his signature smile stretched wide across his face.

Since getting to know Kai, he has impressed me with how mature, funny, and thoughtful of an individual he truly is. More often than I can remember, we’ve shared conversations about everything from our favorite Pokémon to more complex topics such as racism within the school and community. I knew Kai finally trusted me when he drafted up his first rap about me.

Nowadays, I look forward to the interesting things he’ll speak out of curiosity, the rollercoaster of emotions we’ll experience when trying to finish homework, and the silly requests, games, and poetry he’ll think up. I know that with time, my little starfish will remember these long days and the effort Ms. Eva put into making sure he mattered and could latter make a difference in his life and of those around him.

If you enjoyed this, please check out:

- Jondell Taylor's Why I Serve

- Uniquewa Roger's #WhyIServe

Creating Positive School Climate

Belief in the Power of Young People

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