Written by Sinh Nguyen, an AmeriCorps member serving on the NVIDIA team at William C. Overfelt High School

My name is Sinh Nguyen and I’m from Montreal, Quebec.  I serve because 15 years ago, my family and I moved to Santa Ana, California, not knowing a single word of English.  We moved to a predominantly Southeast Asian and Hispanic neighborhood, which was impoverished with limited economic resources. Growing up, I too was classified as “high risk,” of dropping out of school.  After 15 years of hard work and with support from programs similar to City Year, I’ve graduated from UCLA, and currently serve as a City Year AmeriCorps member at the NVIDIA team at William C. Overfelt High School.

On my first day of service, Eduardo, one of my Special Needs Biology students, shared that he had just been released from juvenile detention and rehab.  He looked me in the eyes, teared up, and said: “I want to graduate and make my mom proud.” I thanked him for opening up, and said: “People may take away your things, give up on you, bring you down, and strip away your pride… but they can never take away your education.  Study hard and be the best you that you can be, for you.”  

Today, Eduardo consistently attends class and finishes his assignments.  During class, I not only provide 1 to 1 lesson support to Eduardo, but challenge him to incorporate the merits of hard work and resilience into his extracurriculars and interests, including working out and writing rap lyrics.  I intend to motivate Eduardo to look at the bigger picture, and to find relevancy and purpose in his education.

I serve because the system worked for me.  I serve to motivate students like Eduardo to beat the statistics, strive for greatness, and inspire others with their narratives.

City Year will prepare me for graduate school to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work. I know that furthering my education will give me an opportunity to pay it forward not only to my Southeast Asian community but to the communities that have shaped me into a leader.


Sinh's is one of many inspiring stories among our amazing AmeriCorps team members. When you vote for City Year in the Google Impact Challenge, you're supporting expanded tutoring and mentoring for at-risk kids in East San Jose, helping even more students reach graduation and beyond! Vote now and share CYSJ.VOTE with your social and email networks!

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