2014-02-19

By Molly Mitzner

I vividly remember the day we got our team assignments. The anxiety level among the corps was high. Who would be on our teams? Would that friend we made in the first week be someone that we’d see on a daily basis? Would the person who raised their hand all the time in training be someone we would come to rely on? Would I recognize any of the people or would they all be new faces?

I was assigned to the team that would serve at Kimball Elementary School. I hadn’t met any of the seven other corps members assigned to my team in the previous week and was skeptical. We made polite small talk without even realizing that within weeks we would be a family.

Stressful anticipation led to one of the best aspects of my year so far. My team is incredible. We are 8 amazingly different individuals who come together with a common goal and a common experience. We are an odd assortment of personalities and people, but we are united in our work and we balance each other out. From early on, weclicked.

My team is very diverse. We come from a wide array of races, regions and real experiences. Each one of my team members is so unique and unlike the other. I never would have expected that I would find such strong connections to people that a year ago, I never would have dreamed of meeting.

My team’s diversity also sets a very powerful example for our students. As a white woman, I stand out from the predominately African American students in the school in which I serve. For example, one of my first grade students has a hard time understanding the concept of freckles. “You still have those… when are they going to go away?!” For students to learn and experience someone who looks different at a young age is powerful. The older students understand things differently. When referring to my teammate as white, they were shocked. “Aw, you can’t say that! She’s not white, she’s just light skinned.” For many, race is a taboo subject. For us to experience and learn from each other is an incredibly meaningful part of my service.

Our diversity as a team allows us to have real conversations with our students about our differences. It helps us to promote tolerance and teach kids at an early age that being different is ok. But more than these conversations, our students observe how we interact as a team. They see us having fun and joking around. They see us accomplishing our goals for the school. They see the love we show for each other.

My team is my family in DC. We all genuinely love and care about each other and could not do the work we do without that support network. I’d like to say that our team dynamic is unique and the best one in the whole corps. But I know that my story is just one of many. Our teams are so important in the work that we do. I would not be the corps member, or person, that I am without my team!

molly_mitznerMolly Mitzner, author, is a corps member serving at Kimball Elementary School.

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