By Ashlye Allison, Program Manager at Van Asselt Elementary School
As a student, I wanted to become a lot of things – a chef turned baker, a veterinarian, a wedding planner, mother, bus driver, and economic consultant to name a few. I ended up choosing to major in economics – surrendering to a desk job that required me to do the same thing every day. I would hate it but I would be making money which would allow me to do the things I wanted to do like travel and make art. After struggling financially to get through college, I realized that I didn't actually care to make a lot of money. I just needed enough money to live on. This is a privilege that I was thankful for because I was healthy, I had no one to take care of and I always knew I had the support of my family. I also had responsibilities to pay off my ever-increasing loans and support my sister in college because my parents didn't always have the means.
City Year was something I wanted to do after my older sister spent three years pushing for me to do it. It was the first decision that I made because it was what I wanted. It wasn't because I had to, or because my extended family expected it of me (some family members thought it was an awful decision and pushed me to reconsider). It was because I wanted to be part of supporting students learning and growth in a place that I considered home. SO I did it. I flew across the country to do City Year for a year in Seattle before I planned to move to LA with my best friend and attempt to start a career in art.
My year in classrooms supporting students as a City Year was one of the greatest joys of my life at that point. I loved it with my whole heart. I loved my relationships with students and I loved the school that I supported. It was also a year filled with many challenges, heartbreak, and sadness. For most of the year, there was no part of me that really considered returning an option. But I was wrong.
In the end, I chose to come back as a City Year Team Leader because I wanted to build on what I started at the school to make sure the work that my team and I started would continue. And let me tell you, that year was the hardest working year I have ever experienced. While I was in it, I was so overwhelmed by challenge after challenge that it made the school I served a place of anxiety and stress. And I was heavy with the challenges that my Team Leader team were facing on their own teams. I knew that there was nothing that was going to make me return to City Year. I could not wait for the experience to be in my past for good.
Despite these hardships, I do have to admit that I grew so much that year. I never thought I would or could grow as much as I did and because of that experience, I am a better person today. I gained a lot of patience for all people (including myself). I have become very good at having hard and crucial conversations, even if it means that I have to confront someone. And I learned that I am a very persistent, resilient and dedicated person.
So here I am today – a City Year Program manager at the same school I started as a corps member. Again, I surprised myself and stayed at City Year. I continue to come back because I care so much about the students I serve and the people who serve them. I continue to come back because there should always be people in every school that care about students unconditionally and I can be one of those people. And I continue to come back because every year there are students who ask me if I am coming back and I can't bring myself to say no to them!