Make the World a Better Place with Kindness

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International Random Acts of Kindness Week is February 10-16, 2014. Take this opportunity during the week to step out of your normal routine or comfort zone and attempt a new random act of kindness each day of the celebratory week.

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is an internationally recognized non-profit organization founded upon the powerful belief in kindness and dedicated to providing resources and tools that encourage acts of kindness. You check out their website to see ideas on how to perform a random act of kindness, educator resources, stories of kindness, resources like downloadable greeting cards, and more.

The Top 10 Kindness Ideas include:

1. Just smile at one extra person.
2. Eat lunch with someone new – at school, at the office or wherever you like.
3. Make sure to say I love you or give someone special an extra hug.
4. Volunteer!
5. Download Kindr from the Apple App Store and brighten someone’s day by sending a creative compliment, a hug or even a cute animal video.
6. Try to cook something healthy for your friends or family, and throw in a new vegetable or fruit.
7. Try to park your car a little further to provide a good parking spot for someone who needs it.
8. Send a positive message to someone in need or help someone who might not need it , but appreciates it.
9. Donate unwanted or unused clothes or household goods to a shelter, non-profit or animal rescue organization.
10. If you feel you just must make a monetary contribution, buy someone’s groceries or offer to help pay for someone in line.

If you participate in Random Acts of Kindness week, use the hashtag #RAKweek to tag your social media posts.

–Written by Sara Wright City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley Alumni ’09

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Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Payne

Hi, my name is Sarah Payne and I am from Henderson, Kentucky. After graduating from the University of Kentucky in 06’, I made a decision that continues to positively benefit my life—I committed to serve with City Year. I served in the 2006-2007 corps, as well as 2007-2008 as a Senior Corps Member. I often look back on my corps member experience and think how grateful I am to have had this opportunity to be a part of something greater than myself, and thankful that I surrounded myself with people who truly care about making this world a better place. My City Year experience was truly life-changing and it continues to make me a better leader, communicator, and person. I currently work in Cambrian School District in San Jose as a 4th grade teacher.

Sarah Payne, City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley corps member '06-'08

Sarah Payne, City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley corps member ’06-’08

 In every classroom I teach, I begin each year by building the beloved community. It is my personal mission to build classroom environments that foster success, community, and self-confidence. The importance of community, instilled from my City Year experience, will always be a part of every class I teach. Service learning is powerful! After introducing my students to the Starfish Story, each student is making a personal commitment to changing the world, as a class we are committed to holding one another accountable for our commitments.

 Ultimately I want me students to know that they have the power to make a difference. In our classroom we have a Wall of Positivity and a Wall of Good and Beautiful People, Places, and Things.  These are essential components of our creating our classroom community. As a teacher I think often about Putting Idealism To Work, or PITW# 98 All people-especially young people-need the same eight things: Meaning, adventure, community, power, respect, structure, challenge, and opportunity. City Year provided me with these eight things and I am committed to providing my students with these as well.

A Week of Inspiration and Perspiration

As a City Year corps member turned staff member, I don’t often have the opportunity to work on a school campus. But the week of December 8-14th was very different. Last week, I was part of the ‘prep team’, a small but mighty crew of City Year corps and staff members who helped to prepare Ocala Middle School for Project Inspire.

Project Inspire is a two-day transformational project and NVIDIA’s replacement for an annual holiday party. While serving alongside Care Force as part of the prep team, I was able to see the day to day progress made toward completely transforming the Ocala Middle School campus. One of the most rewarding pieces of working on the prep team occurred when a student, teacher or staff member passing by would look at all of us in yellow and say ‘thank you’. Knowing that all the work we were doing was so greatly impacting the community at Ocala made all of the bumps, bruises and sore arms worth it.

Making holes for fencing posts!

Making holes for fencing posts!

In the four days leading up to Project Inspire I learned many new skills and carried what seemed like a million 2 by 4s, but the really amazing part came on Friday and Saturday when over 1,200 NVIDIA volunteers joined us to completely transform Ocala’s campus. On Friday, I led a group of NVIDIA employees in mixing, pouring and laying concrete for work on the East Valley Softball fields. I was incredibly proud of the hard work my group put in and as I walked my volunteers off campus, I discussed the impact our work was going to have on the students. On Saturday, due to my newfound expertise with concrete, I was given a concrete crew to fill in a number of different areas. This time my group was comprised of NVIDIA employees, a corps member’s friend, a staff member from Ocala’s after school program, and teacher who had been at Ocala since early 2000. As we mixed and poured concrete, our group discussed how much Ocala needed this external face lift and how excited the students would be to see how much the community was invested in them. As my group wrapped up our day of hard work, we were able to see just how large of an impact the work of 1,200 volunteers could have on a middle school campus.

Aptly named for the feeling you have when you leave each day, Project Inspire stays with me throughout the year. From the smiles and thank you’s from the Ocala and East Side community to the physical transformation made, I am able to remember all the good that can be done when people work together to create change. For me it truly embodies City Year’s motto and I can see that giving a year really can change the world.

Check out City Year, NVIDIA and the City of San Jose in the news and pictures from the event on Saturday and Sunday and a video recapping it all.

Written by Emily Weber, Development Associate

Alumni Spotlight: Greg Currey

Written by Alumni Board Member Greg Currey who served in San Jose ’09-’11

Serving on the founding Lee Mathson Middle School Team ’09-’10 was frequently challenging, but we supported each other through praise.

Serving on the founding Lee Mathson Middle School Team ’09-’10 was frequently challenging, but we supported each other through praise.

I love the leadership compass. If I tell fellow City Year alum “I’m a southeast” they’ll know exactly what I mean. City Year has changed the way I talk about leadership. A good leader can lead with actions, with ideas, with details, or with feelings. But I’ve also learned from City Year that a great organization leads with praise.

We all enjoy praise. There’s something great about having someone tell you that you did well at the end of a difficult day. But as an organization, City Year uses praise not just to boost morale and recognize achievement, but also to encourage hard work and innovation.

City Year’s very public, frequent, and multi-directional system of recognition gives its corps and staff a very clear message: “this is what your peers, supervisors, and organization values.” By praising people publicly and always giving reasons for the praise, ambitious corps members learn what they can do to get noticed. When we see our peers being recognized, we feel glad for them, but we also feel an urge to earn what they have just been given.

This process encourages corps members to go above and beyond, thinking of new ideas they can earn a note in their appreciation bag, or be celebrated during a Community Day. Of course, institutional praise is not the only thing that makes City Year members serve with all their heart: they also carry a passion for their work, and a desire to provide excellent service for the sake of their students and those they serve. But frequent praise is part of the process that encourages staff and corps to take on even more than their daily tasks, and really do something great. Leading with praise changed my life, and it is something that I, as a City Year alumni, will take with me wherever I go.

Wordless Wednesday: The Carl and Leslee Guardino Summer Leadership Academy

City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley is currently running the Carl and Leslee Guardino Summer Leadership Academy at Cesar Chavez Elementary School. The Guardino Summer Leadership Academy began on Monday, August 5th, and will run until Friday, August 16th. Students are receiving two weeks of tuition-free summer school instruction while our 74 new corps members are getting trained and putting their knowledge into action with over 250 students. Thank you to all of our wonderful partners who are enabling us to serve our students: Carl and Leslee Guardino, Schmahl Science, Revolution Foods, Alum Rock Union Elementary School District, the San Francisco 49ers Foundation, SunPower, Trimble Navigation, Silicon Valley Bank, Wells Fargo, the City of San Jose, SYNNEX, Infinera, KQED, and PG&E Corporation.

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This City Year Life: It’s a lot of work…

This post is part of a series reflecting on this year of service in honor of our 2011-2012 corps graduation on Wednesday.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding.”  That was the phrase I was told over and over last July when I met corps members from the year before, as I was moving into my house.  How vague I thought.  I came to San Jose, thousands of miles away from places I called home; for the weather.  The city has around 320 sunny days a year the website boasted, and I was sold.  The kids?  I had worked in schools before, how difficult could teaching be?

Corps Member Dani Alkon

Well my naiveté was quickly proven as on the first day of summer school I asked a fourth grader, whom I would later work with, what the number after 3 was. I was met with a blank stare.  Thus started my immersion into City Year culture, San Jose culture, and elementary school culture.  The terminology and acronyms which once seemed so foreign, like ATA, TL, Starfish and Ripple now come naturally, and I find myself using them in external conversations.  I can write a lesson plan in under five minutes and recite the Peacebuilders pledge backwards.  Slowly, very slowly my Spanish has grown, and now I find myself adding hot sauce to most of the food I eat.  After more than a few incidents I can navigate the whole city by bike.  And as for the kids, I can do a carpie in two- square, smell a bag of Takis from a mile away (only to confiscate them… okay and maybe eat a few), and my marble collection is extensive.

Dani gets dunked by students at the Chavez end of year carnival

Yes, there were times I went home overwhelmed by all the work I had done and still had to do.  Frustrated because, you can only sound out the word cat so many times, and the fourth graders were giving me attitude again.  Then there were days like when Frankie told me he was saving his pennies for college, Maria asked if she could read another book to me, Jose blended the word graduation perfectly, and Christina used the word immense in a sentence. On these days I went home and bragged to anyone who would listen (my roommates can attest to this).

Though I certainly didn’t realize or appreciate it at the time, the hardest moments were the ones that helped me grow.  The words patience, patience, patience come to my mind, and I’m sure they come to my teammates as well. My teammates, who have taught me to be more professional, less serious, and more “inclusive.” Without them this year would’ve been impossible. I have been lucky enough to see the magic that is possible when very different people come together for a common purpose, and yes more city year jargon, collaborate. It’s hard to sum up my year in writing, but I do know what I’ll tell next year’s corps members when I’m moving out. I will say, “It’s a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding.”

-Dani Alkon, Corps Member CYSJ