All the Difference

by Amy Barnes, City Year Seattle Board Member

I was fortunate to have the support of family, teachers, and other adults when I was a student. One adult, in particular, stands out. While in high school I had the same teacher for three years and we formed a strong bond. When I got on a plane by myself to move from Alaska to Ohio to attend a college I’d never visited, her belief in me gave me courage. For the four years I attended Denison University, she continued to cheer me on from afar including paying my dues so I could participate in a social group that had positively influenced her college experience. But perhaps even better, every semester she sent a care package and those caramel brownies often made me the most popular person in my dorm – while they lasted!

Unfortunately, studies show that one effect of systemic, intergenerational poverty is that  many young people in our country do not have this kind of cheering section to keep them going when challenges arise. This may lead to young people lacking the belief in themselves to persevere.

But for students in 10 Seattle Public Schools, they DO have a team rooting for them every day – a City Year team! These amazing City Year AmeriCorps volunteers give a year of service to mentor, tutor and cheer-on students who might not think anyone cares if they succeed in school. City Year teams arrive at school before the bell rings to run homework clubs, welcome students, and follow-up when they don’t show-up for school. They work one-on-one with students who need extra help with the ABCs – academic, behavior, and coursework. They make an impact on the entire school by offering afterschool programs and community events like math carnivals. They are truly making a difference in the lives of children in our community.

That’s why I proudly serve on the board of City Year Seattle and it’s why I was drawn to the national PBS documentary, All The Difference. Filmed over five and a half years, the movie tells the story of two promising young black men and shows the support students need from family, role models, teachers, peers, and others. One of the film’s protagonists, Robert Henderson III, goes on to join City Year after graduating college and he will be in Seattle this Wednesday, November 9th, for a film screening and a panel discussion hosted by City Year and Seattle University’s Center for Community Engagement.

Although the two young men featured in the film are from Chicago many aspects of their stories are being experienced by young people here in Seattle. This free community film screening and panel discussion will explore how we can be advocates for educational equity and how all of us can be part of the cheering section students need to succeed.  

I repay the debt I owe the adults who encouraged me by supporting City Year so they can continue to impact the lives of thousands of Seattle students each year.  I’m excited attend the All The Difference screening to explore how I can do more. 

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