By Julie Keller
AmeriCorps member serving at Leckie Education Campus

Part 1: Culture Shock

   In my first week serving with City Year, during Basic Training Academy, I was assigned to a Founding Team. What is a Founding Team I wondered? Well, they stem from our organization’s Founding Stories, of course! What is a Founding Story I asked? They are inspirational stories that drive our service year. How didn’t I know?!

   My Founding Team was called the Starfish Team. The Starfish story is about a girl who throws starfish back into the ocean from a dried up beach. Though someone suggests to her that she'll never save them all, this idealistic girl replies with the notion that she even if she saved just one, that would be enough. Pretty inspiring, right?

Part 2:  School Shock   

   Wow. Reminiscing about the first day of school gives me a slight jolt of anxiety! From joining forces with a school staff that is already tight-knit, to students who miss their old City Year AmeriCorps members, to finding out what a normal day looks like in this unique job; it was quite an overwhelming amount of information to take in throughout just one day.

   Eventually, the storm calmed and within a few weeks of service, I started getting the hang of everything. At that point, I was instructed to select students to be on my behavior focus list, which is a group of students whom I coach to set weekly social-emotional goals. These goals are the platform from which I was able to meet and get to know the student who I call my Starfish.

Part 3: Starfish Shock

   At the beginning of the school year, my Starfish sat in the back of the classroom, didn't talk much, and seemed to be indifferent when it came to learning. Our first goal was based on building self-confidence. Any time he was asked to do something during class he had to tell himself, "I can do it!" It took a while, but eventually - rather than rolling his eyes anytime he got an assignment - his attitude transformed and his self-efficacy towards his schoolwork increased. He became more engaged in his academics and was actually excited to learn. Still, he sat silent at the lunch table and didn't really interact with others during recess. We extended our goal to building social confidence. During class, when one of his peers received an assignment he would tell them, "you can do it!" Day by day, I sat back and watched this young man unknowingly redirect the attention of his peers from frustration to encouragement. All of the sudden, his whole group was high-fiving each other and telling one another to keep trying when they got an answer wrong.

   I feel so lucky to have been able to see my Starfish grow into a leader and spread positivity amongst his peers. His teachers have even acknowledged his growth by making him a two-time recipient of the Leckie Lion Mane Pride Award. I will forever hold the memory of his proud smile beaming in front of his classmates, as his teachers told him how proud they were of his Positive-Can-Do-attitude. I may not be able to impact every student at my school, but I am thrilled to know that I have at least had an impact on one. Little does he know, he’s had an even bigger impact on me.

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