This post is part of a series reflecting on this year of service in honor of our 2011-2012 corps graduation on Wednesday.
As I reflect on my second city year, I think about the people who got me here and the student who inspired me to keep serving.
I am first generation Ghanaian American. Both my parents were unable to receive a higher education, but they instilled in my brother and me the importance of education. Both my parents worked two jobs trying to make ends meet yet they made sure they were actively present in our education. School for me was always hard because I struggled with certain concepts. If my parents weren’t involved enough to push me to seek assistance from teachers, I wouldn’t have graduated from high school. I could have easily been an at-risk youth, off-track, not on the right path. I was fortunate enough to have the support of my family to keep me headed in the right direction.
Last year I served at Lee Mathson Middle School. During my service year at Mathson, I met a student who was not as fortunate as I was to have the support of her parents. Stacy* lost her father to gang violence and grew up with behavioral issues, surrounded by gang involvement. She struggled in class and missed school quite frequently. In fact, due to the amount of days Stacy missed, she was at risk of not graduating with her eighth grade class. During brunch and lunch breaks Stacy and I would talk about life and school. When she became one of my math tutoring students, we were able to build a stronger relationship, and I was able to talk to her about life choices and discuss the importance of education.
Gradually Stacy started coming to school more and her math improved. In the end, Stacy didn’t just graduate, but because of her remarkable transformation she was able to give a speech to her graduating class.
I joined City Year because I believe that every child deserves an equal opportunity to a quality education. Students like Stacy don’t have the support system that many of us are fortunate to have. Through City Year, I was able to be a support system in her life and witness a complete transformation. Stacy is now completely disengaged from the gang life, and is serving as a class representative for her high school’s student council. In the future she plans to apply to Stanford and UCLA.
She told me, “Thank you for spending time with me and helping me realize that I could do better.” This is why I served, and why I hope other young people continue to serve their communities in the future.
-Nancy Adjei, Recruitment Project Leader CYSJ
*the student’s name was changed to protect her identity