Jae knew he was ready but wasn't quite sure what was on the horizon for him to take on next. He had just graduated from college in his home state of Virginia with a degree in psychology and most of his friends were securing their first "adult" jobs.

He knew he was maybe interested in teaching and also that he wanted to break out of the hometown bubble he had grown up in to have new experiences and learn about other cultures. So, when a friend and current City Year Team Leader Baton Rouge, Louisiana, suggested he take a transition year to serve students in one of City Year's 28 nationwide sites, Jae opened his heart and mind to going wherever this opportunity took him.

Jae describes his year serving at Will Rogers Middle School as an "eye-opening experience", where he realized how different of an education and life he was privileged to have compared to many Tulsa students. "I was shocked at some of the things my 7th graders worry about, figuring out where their next meal is coming or how they're going to get to school. When I was in 7th grade, the most I worried about was what trying out for school sports teams or picking a club to join," said Jae.

It was gaining this perspective that has come to motivate his service. Jae approaches his work with students by first "walking a mile in their moccasins" (a core City Year value) to better understand their perspective of an issue but also has seen the value of opening up and speaking about his own experiences, perspective and advice.

"I think City Year can walk this fine line with student where we can see more eye-to-eye with them than teachers and faculty, but can still impart wisdom and advice," says Jae. This year, Jae worked with a student who he saw was smart but was often getting suspended and not doing his homework. During one-on-one homework sessions Jae also learned about his life and opened up about his own, giving his student advice on how to address peer pressure and balancing schoolwork with fun.

After a year working closely with teachers and students, Jae now recognizes that becoming a school counselor or administrator is more aligned to his skills and values and is pursuing a graduate degree at Oklahoma State University. He feels inspired to help support teachers outside the classroom while continuing to build emotional relationships with students like he's done with City Year.

Are you, or do you know, a 17-25 year old who is ready to serve Tulsa’s youth while developing their own personal, professional and leadership skills? If so, encourage them to learn about service with City Year Tulsa. Together we can #makebetterhappen in Tulsa.

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