By Nhoell Inthavong

As a second year City Year AmeriCorps member currently leading a team at a Seattle elementary school, I know our daily work with students makes a big impact on our local community. I enjoy seeing a corps member I work with learn something new and feel empowered to help students master a skill or grow in confidence. Truthfully, the hours our corps members serve are long and some days can be tough. It’s not always easy to see evidence of progress.

That’s why I am grateful to have witnessed the community coming together to celebrate one of City Year’s core values: “service to a cause greater than self” at City Year Seattle’s Ripples of Hope gala last night. Sharing the City Year story in a different way with school staff, community members and long-time supporters and being able to recognize many people who help make this work possible in Seattle schools every day is a powerful experience. Personally, the celebration left a big grin on my face. The event also gave me an opportunity to share a story of my own, the story of how my City Year mentor has made a difference in my life.

Since last fall, I’ve had the privilege of learning from a role model who is interested in my future after City Year and has shared so much professional expertise with me – T-Mobile’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategic Partnerships, Jason Young. When I found out that I was matched with Jason, I thought, “Yes! He’s so cool!” He showed a genuine interest in the stories I had to share about my students and who I was aside from being a City Year AmeriCorps member in a “red jacket.” As City Year Seattle/King County Board Chair, Jason has actually earned a “red jacket” of his own in recognition of his leadership and deep personal investment in our work. He once jokingly told me that he loves the jacket so much, he sleeps in it, and with his dedication to our work, I wouldn’t doubt it.

Jason came to visit me at the school where I proudly serve, Graham Hill Elementary. I gave him a tour of the school and talked about some of the joys and challenges we face day-to-day.  We also had a chance to talk at length about the gains we have made as a team, including establishing a relationship with a new principal and improving on our attendance initiatives for students. Afterward, we sat at a table in a hallway of the school, and learned more about each other. He shared stories about his past educators, his own passion for teaching, his service with Teach for America, and more. I remember asking him, “What’s a mantra or quote that you live by?” His response has stuck with me. “Try your best and have fun.” At a time when I was overthinking and overanalyzing everything, his words really spoke to me and in that moment, I appreciated having someone like Jason in my life.

During Ripples of Hope, the connection came full circle. I, along with my fellow corps member Mike Roy, presented T-Mobile with the Service Leadership Award, a true honor. T-Mobile has supported City Year Seattle/King County for over a decade. As a math sponsor, T-Mobile’s support directly supported the small group interventions that corps members provide to students needing extra support and time with mathematics learning and concepts. I see our partnership just as I see Jason - so cool! Like City Year Seattle/King County, T-Mobile is growing, not just at its headquarters in the Seattle area, but also nationwide. Growth and change come hand in hand, whether you’re talking about work with students, personal development, or customer service. Jason has shared with me that T-Mobile is an innovative company focused on doing the right things for customers, and they don’t mind mixing it up and changing norms – as long as the end result is great for customers. Similarly, I see a willingness to be change makers in City Year AmeriCorps members’ work with our students. Every single day, we figure out new ways to serve, based on the individual needs of our students, schools and community, striving to help make a positive change. With T-Mobile and City Year’s respective mottos - #wewontstop and #makebetterhappen - I guess you could say that together, we won’t stop to make better happen.

Nhoell Inthavong is a second-year City Year AmeriCorps member serving as Team Leader at Graham Hill Elementary School in southeast Seattle. Originally from North Carolina, Nhoell is excited to now call Seattle home. She is documenting her City Year experience on a personal blog – Serving in Seattle.

City Year helps students and schools succeed. Diverse teams of City Year AmeriCorps members provide research-based student, classroom and school-wide supports to help students stay in school and on track to graduate from high school, ready for college and career success. A 2015 study shows that schools that partner with City Year were up to 2-3 times more likely to improve on math and English assessments. A proud member of the AmeriCorps national service network, City Year is funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service, local school districts, and private philanthropy from corporations, foundations and individuals. Learn more at www.cityyear.org, City Year’s Facebook page, on Twitter, and LinkedIn.  

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