Wordless Wednesday: Chavez Garden

Chavez Garden

Joey spent 18 weeks working with students in his school gardening club. What once was an unused, weed-filled space is now a sprawling oasis! Students have planted marigolds, pansies, daisies, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, pumpkins, kidney beans, radishes and spearmint. The students are incredible proud and dedicated to keeping their new space bountiful!

-Joey Gill, Corps Member, Cisco Team at Cesar Chavez Elementary School 

United We Are

Cindee Photo 4.13

Relationships are at the core of everything we at City Year do. Whether we spend 10 hours together or 10 minutes, our fellow teammates and corps members are the life force of our social and work lives. We find ourselves eager to learn more about these people, and never fail to be awed, inspired, and proud of each person in the corps because of these exchanges. For every human interaction we have, we are slightly different individuals because of it. In a job where we have to make ourselves extremely vulnerable to be effective, we find that it is these corps members who have shaped us and our experience during our corps year, forever changing our perspective. For these reasons, I believe the relationships built within City Year are arguably the strongest relationships built in our young lives thus far.

City Year thrives off of the relationships corps members build with each other, our service partners, schools, teachers and communities. A year of service is, at times, positively grueling.  But the silver lining is that you are not going through it alone at any time. In San Jose, I have at least 67 other people who are going through it in my corps year, 8 additional people who have gone through it before in our senior corps, and 14 more people who see corps members go through it year after year in staff members. Across the City Year network, thousands of young idealists are getting similar experiences. That doesn’t include the principals who eagerly put us to work in their schools, the teachers who welcome us into their classrooms, the students who let us into their lives or the service partners and individuals who give to us because they see the value in our work time and time again. They care about us as individuals, and though our service begins and ends with the goal of increasing the chances of success for the students we serve, the relationships we build are arguably what help us provide such a high quality of service from start to finish.

-Cindee Crosby, Corps Member, Cisco Team at Cesar Chavez Elementary School

Life Through the Eyes of a Second-Grader

Before I left for holiday break I anticipated sitting in front of a warm fire with my younger sister and brother, my mom, dad and our goofy dog. I looked forward to watching some old episodes of West Wing together, laughing at my brother’s silly comments, and then heading off to bed. I would treasure a warm house with my beautiful family, being home for the holidays, and resting my body and spirit.

As a City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley Corps Member on the Cisco Team at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, I work with second, third and fourth graders each day to help improve their reading. I have 14 students on my tutoring focus list, and teach two literacy classes during our After School Program. However, through all of the hard work that I have done and lessons that I have learned, I have been most amazed by what my youngest students, the second graders, have taught me.

To a second grader, the most important bond that you could make is over tag or tether-ball. To a second-grader, your best friends are the ones that play with you at recess every day, not the ones who are ‘cool’. To a second grader, asking for help on your homework is not embarrassing, but necessary, helpful and even fun. You show a second-grader that you care by letting them color as part of your lesson. You show a second-grader that you care by quizzing them on their spelling words. You show a second-grader that you care by talking to them calmly rather than yelling when they get out of their seat for the sixth time to ask you a question. Over the past few months, these youngsters have taught me that so much of life’s pleasures are simple, we just have to be present to notice and appreciate them.

As a City Year San Jose corps member, I am blessed every day in ways that I could never have imagined prior to coming to the West Coast. Our work is hard and it will never end, but I am blessed to spend each day with students that remind me to step back and enjoy the simpler details of life. My wall is now covered in drawings from my second graders and my daily exercise is playing tag with 7 year olds.

Over the next few weeks, I hope that you too can take a step back to ask yourself what makes each day worthwhile, and whom to give an extra hug and “I love you”.

Maybe, if you’re lucky, you will be able to see life through the eyes of a second-grader.

-Meg Hassey, Corps Member CYSJ

Thankful Thursday: 2011-2012 Corps Members

This is to the City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley corps of 2011/2012.

Congratulations to all of you.  Thank you for your service.

As I was preparing to write this blog I came upon the realization that “Thank you” is such a trite way to express gratitude.

I can list the great accomplishments of your 2000 hours of service. The 100’s of students served, the difference you made in schools around attendance behavior and course performance. But that does not capture it all. There is “behind the scenes” work that no one sees that’s helps make this all happen.

Things like:

  • Preparing lesson plans after 10 hour days
  • In some cases, convincing your parents to let you do this
  • Stepping up when a teammate was sick
  • Minimum days (which were really maximum days)
  • Living on a small stipend
  • Piloting programs
  • Data and all the entry, analysis, adjustment of same
  • Serving on committees in addition to your regular responsibilities
  • Staying late, with a great attitude, until the l a s t  s t u d e n t is  finally picked up
  • Lunch with students, spending the time to get to know them and building relationships
  • Walking students home
  • Working with teachers, doing meetings, tracking student progress
  • Talking with parents and siblings of students and building relationships with them

and

  • End of year events

You took time from your life and devoted it to service. Pure service that entailed you giving your absolute best ALL the time to make sure students that were total strangers 11 months ago became the reason for your being.

You’ve been trained, observed and evaluated. You rose above daunting challenges and chose not be overwhelmed by your task of giving a year and changing the world.  You just did it. You put your shoulder into the grindstone and did it via your 50+ hour work week, minute by minute, line by line, math problem by math problem you did it. You changed the worlds of so many students. You worked with students who had no hope, no confidence and no investment in their own future. These same students now have goals, and aspirations. Once more, they can write about them and even figure out how to achieve them.

You chose this path perhaps for personal or professional reasons. Maybe both. All of you were challenged. Some left. But if you are a City Year San Jose / Silicon Valley graduate. You stayed.

And here you are, 53 friends who were strangers a year ago.  A corps of 53 change agents. You took a chance to join City Year and change the world. And you did it. Thank you and congratulations.

Beach Pace, Executive Director CYSJ/SV

Wordless Wednesday: Opening Day slideshow

Enjoy this slideshow of photos from our Opening Day that took place on Friday, October 7 at the San José Athletic Club.

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-Photos by Romel Antoine, Program Manager CYSJ

Encouraging students to dream big

Gisela Martinez will be serving again next year as a Team Leader at Cureton.

Majors, minors, sports division, and dorms are words the students I serve at Cureton Elementary School weren’t very much familiar with until this past Thursday when our team held a College Fair in the after school program.

Not all communities get the same opportunities, especially low-income communities, like the ones City Year corps members volunteer in. Innocent children suffer from these economic inequalities.  Its clear children will define the future of our world.

So, I ask, why the injustice? Why are children from tougher economic backgrounds expected to dream less than others?

I grew up in an area very similar to East San Jose where the topic of college wasn’t talked about much, not at all for that matter. I know from firsthand experience that the limitation of resources in low-income communities, such as the one I’m from and the one I’m currently serving in, affect their accessibility to grow to their highest potential and hinder their ability to create a positive imagining for their future.  My biggest goal in elementary school was to simply graduate high school. College wasn’t a dream for me until as late as my sophomore year of high school.

This is the reason I serve. To be that resource. To help craft the children of today’s generation with wonderful dreams for their own future.

Dreams like, “looking forward to studying about criminology and med school stuff,” said by one of our 5th graders during the College Fair.

Inspired by a field trip to Stanford for some of the 4th and 5th graders a couple of weeks before, I decided to organize a City Year College Fair to get students in all grades at Horace Cureton Elementary excited about college and a limitless future.

I knew that my team of first year corps members had an impressive and diverse collegiate background. Stanford University, Penn State, Fordham University, Harvard, West Virginia University, Drew University, Brown University, and The University of Rochester were all represented at the College Fair. We each contacted our Alma Mater or soon-to-be university for some type of informational material and we received an abundance of magnets, posters, sports schedules, stickers and brochures for our kids.

Students from 1st -5th grade were able to walk freely through each station and stay as long as they wanted to question each of us about our studies, reasons we attended college, why we picked our majors and general experiences. An overwhelming feeling of joy and pride rushed through me while I watched our 1st– 5th graders’ eager faces asking questions and getting excited about the classes they can take and the clubs they can join.

The day ended with groups of kids chanting, “HARVARD!”, “WVU!”, and “FORDHAM!!” and other groups retaliating and cheering, “STANFORD!! STANFORD!! STANFORD!!” To this day, kids are still chanting the school names they want to attend, letting me know that my team and I have rooted a fun and positive outlook for their future and potential, fulfilling my purpose to serve and the reason for me continuing to serve the remarkable students of Cureton Elementary.

Gisela Martinez, Corps Member CYSJ