2017-04-20

By Alyssa D'Amato
Senior AmeriCorps member serving on the CSX Transportation team at Kimball Elementary School

   Since starting City Year in 2015, I have taken to coloring. It started during art class, or afterschool, sitting with my students and filling in the empty spaces with darks and lights. Through my AmeriCorps service year, my coloring habit transcended conversations with students about favorite colors and favorite foods. I started coloring after a ten hour service day, sitting at the dining room table with my roommate and rehashing the details of the day. Those moments were cathartic; I needed them as I wandered through a service year filled with smiles, tears, and everything in between. Those colors filled the pages of my service year. The bright reds of our jackets stand out in the overcast of my mind as my team sang "Singing In The Rain" at 8:30AM. I see the dark black letters of "unaddressed hurdle" across the computer screen during blended learning, where I know my students are facing more than just one. I can feel the bright yellow of the sun on my face watching one of my students slide down playground stairs on his belly, and I can see the flecks of orange in the peels scattered across the classroom carpet after snack. I can see the blues of student tears and uniform shirts meshed with the pink FUNDATIONS writing workbooks.

   My service year (read: my students, my team, my teacher, my school) changed my life in ways that I was not ready to part with, so I came back for a second year. As a team leader, I still lean on coloring to calm me. But now, I've begun flipping the pages over, using the backs to make schedules, posters, and thank you cards. Being a team leader has given me a gift. It has allowed me to share my greatest love with the nine other people on my team. I get to watch them fall in love with everything I love. More importantly, I have been able to watch my students fall in love with their new City Years. Sometimes it's hard, watching my students create new memories and overcome new challenges without me by their side; but mostly I am grateful, knowing that there is another red jacket waiting for them.

   My senior AmeriCorps year reminds me a lot of the backside of those coloring pages; the colors are softer. I think of my students, struggling, overcoming, and flourishing with my team by their sides, and I think about how the sharpness of the color black, flipped over, has turned into a gentle gray because I am trusting in the people who are now the ones running through the yellow sun to the blue tears. I think about my students and how I get to watch them from afar as they blur the boundaries around them, how flipped over, you don't see that they colored outside of the lines. Instead, you see that every day they are creating something beautiful and that no matter which side you look at, it is perfect.

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