Taking a Complaint-Free Moment


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I’m no stranger to complaints. I field a lot of them in my position as a 6th grade literacy tutor and Extended Learning Time facilitator at Clyde L. Fischer Middle School. This week, I decided to reverse the tables. I asked … Continue reading

City Year Through The Eyes of A Student: An Interview With Second Grader, Eugene


By Jenna Morris, Corps Member 

Eugene plays at recess with corps member Jenna Morris

Eugene plays at recess with corps member Jenna Morris

If you ask any City Year corps member what they most like about serving at City Year, almost everyone will say “the kids.” As a corps member, I’ve had the privilege to get to know Eugene, a second grader who is in our Extended Learning Time after-school program. Eugene enjoys playing outside, eating strawberry ice cream, doing experiments, and is a member of our football club where he enjoys helping Ms. Sharmaine and Ms. Nicole. Last week I interviewed Eugene to get to know him better and learn about how City Year is impacting his life.


JENNA: What is your favorite thing about City Year?
EUGENE: They like to play with me and they help me. I like to play tag and Ms. and Mr. Fox.

JENNA: What have you learned so far in City Year?
EUGENE: I learned to be a good person. I am learning to not bully. I learned how to make a team and make friends.

JENNA: Who is someone you admire and why?
EUGENE: My family because they buy me costumes for Halloween. They help me to learn Spanish and Vietnamese. I was born in Vietnam. I have friends in Vietnam that I look up to. I look up to my Mom who lives in Texas and my grandpa who lives in San Jose.

JENNA: If you could be a food, what food would you be and why?
EUGENE: Strawberry ice cream because I like strawberry ice cream.

JENNA: If you could be an animal, what animal would you be and why?
EUGENE: Dragon because my favorite animal is dragons because they breathe fire and have wings.

JENNA: Tell me an interesting fact about yourself.
EUGENE: I make science projects. I made a volcano and it exploded. Then I cleaned up my mess so my grandma took me to Chuck E Cheese.

JENNA: What do you want to be when you grow up? Why?
EUGENE: I want to be a worker for Target. I want to make things for the children to play with and make clothes for them to wear at school and home.

I really enjoyed interviewing Eugene and getting to know him better. It’s so great to hear that the work we are doing matters and that the students are enjoying themselves, learning, and growing.

Eugene plays with his ELT classmates.

Eugene plays with his ELT classmates.

Making It: Corps Member Questions for the Team Leader

by Gerald Burns, Corps Member at Horace Cureton Elementary School

Gerald Burns, corps member at Cureton Elementary School and Ruben Raskin, team leader at Horace Cureton Elementary School

Gerald Burns, corps member at Cureton Elementary School and Ruben Raskin, team leader at Horace Cureton Elementary School

Monday morning, minutes after getting ready for school with the students at morning rally, my team leader, who is a second year corps members providing additional support for us during service, offers as he does with my team and I each week, “do you have time to walk and check in?” A chance to take a walk around campus on a one-on-one session with Ruben, Cureton’s team leader, is just what I need to help put Monday’s to-do list in perspective and get in a relaxed, positive space to dig into the day’s service. On today’s walk, I wanted to ask Ruben about how he came to be my team leader, the differences between serving as a first-year corps member (like myself) and returning for a second year at the same school as the team leader, and what lessons and pieces of advice from his first City Year affect him the most in his current position.

It turns out that this time last year, less than one month after our site’s Opening Day, Ruben was interested in applying for the role of team leader. Our Program Manager, during her first meeting with Ruben last year, suggested the opportunity of Senior Corps, and he took it seriously. Her faith in his capacity for leadership, and the challenge he knew would come from taking on that role, inspired him throughout his service last year and today. Ruben compared himself to our students when describing how the growth-mindset perspective our Program Manager had towards his future helped him believe that he had the potential to fill such an integral leadership role in all City Year teams. “Saying that I had that potential” said Ruben, “[made] me work harder…it’s liberating and inspiring.”

Ruben works to keep a growth-mindset toward our students’ development, even as the relationships he built with these students last year have changed. “You don’t get to work with students as much,” Ruben admits, whose student interactions this year are frequently over poor behavior choices. The silver lining: Ruben now enjoys “forming relationships with students he didn’t get as close to last year” and he believes that he continues to have an important, positive impact on student success in our after-school program. He reminds me of course that “it’s still early in the year,” and that these are just the early conversations in showing the students how much they can grow.

At this early stage in his second year of service at Cureton as our team leader, one piece of advice that has stuck with him came from a fellow corps member: “fake it until you make it.” Knowing Ruben’s sense of humor and gift for being genuine, I had an idea of what this meant to him: “the things we struggle with become habit, and an amazing transformation occurs,” he explained. “Because without even realizing it, you’ve developed so much by seeing challenging work as an opportunity to grow.” Hearing his positive approach to taking on daunting work what definitely what I needed to start my week of service.

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

Corps Member Spotlight: Jakob Rosenberg

Here is the first of a new City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley series, “Corps Member Spotlight.” First year corps member Jakob Rosenberg shares his City Year experience with you from why he serves to bad haircuts to his favorite parts of the school day.

Name: Jakob Rosenberg

Bio: I’m 22 years old from good ol’ Austin, Texas and I graduated with a BBA in Management Information Systems from Texas A&M University. Whoop!

Why I Serve: I chose to serve this year with City Year because I wanted to give back for everything that I have been fortunate enough to receive. I love working with kids and when I heard about City Year through an email and researched it online, I instantly knew that I wanted to serve as a corps member. I really want my students to realize that they can do amazing things with their lives and to have them believe in themselves.

A Day In the Life of Jakob:

Jakob leading the math block of City Year’s Extended Learning Time program.

Jakob leading the math block of City Year’s Extended Learning Time program.

7:00am: Roll out of bed and carpool with my fellow corps members to Fischer Middle School.
7:45am: Circle with my unbelievably amazing, strong 11 member team, the JPMorgan Chase & Co. team, serving at Clyde Fischer Middle School.
8:15am: Morning greet the students as they arrive on campus
8:30am: Tutor 6th grade students in math and prep for the Extended Learning Time Program (ELT) – City Year’s after school program that extends the learning day for the entire 6th grade population at Fischer.
10:15am: Meet with my attendance student during brunch, having a snack, and chatting about how he’s doing overall
10:25am: Continue to tutor 6th graders in math
11:30am: Support lunch recess for 6th graders. Monitor as well as participate in games and have conversations with the students
12:15pm: Lunchtime!
1:00pm: Continue to tutor 6th graders in math
2:00pm: I am the attendance coordinator for Fischer, so I check students’ attendance for the day and email the corps members whose students were absent or tardy that day.
2:45pm: ELT begins with a BRIDGE block that promotes more fun and team building. During the BRIDGE block, we help students bridge the social and academic gap from the transition from 5th grade to 6th grade.
3:00pm: I teach a math block to 6th grade students that acts as a more interactive review of the material from their school day
3:45pm: Snack and structured games which allow the students some down time to just be kids.
5:00pm: The students who walk home due to the early time of sunset, sign out, the other students go to an enrichment block. I then utilize this time to prep for tutoring and ELT by writing lesson plans, coming up with activities, and getting things together for the next day.
6:15pm: Check attendance sheets and closing circle

Favorite Part of the School Day: Getting to debrief and hear how the day went for my BRIDGE students at the end of the day. It’s great to see how excited some of them can be to share all about their day.

Favorite Student Quote:The day after a haircut, “Mr. Rosenberg, you really let yourself go…” It really wasn’t that bad!

An Inspiring Start To My City Year

I woke up at 7:30AM this Saturday morning because I was moved with passion. My name is Brooke Yokoyama, I am a Japanese, Chinese, and Hawaiian American female. I am a City Year corps member and today I woke up thinking about ways to help my middle school students at Mathson Middle School School.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this inspired. I’ve accomplished many milestones this year that I could have blogged about; I graduated cum laude from the University of Puget Sound with a double major in Psychology and Politics & Government in May. But that pales in comparison to the transformation that has happened in the past two months while serving with City Year.

After about a month of training, I started my service at Mathson in late August with the mindset that I needed to be hard on students to establish my authority and  be treated with respect. So I walked around the school with a stern look on my face, standing straight, hand behind my back, and always watching. Misbehavior got a stern reprimand and constant misbehavior meant that they were sent to my program manager, the principal, or the vice principal.

I did a pretty good job of commanding my classrooms, but I came across students that reacted negatively to my laying down the law. One boy in my Literacy class was constantly off-task and he was the first person I ever sent to the Step-Up Room, which is something like an after school detention and reflection room for misbehaving students. When I sent him to the Step-Up room for the rest of the day, he stomped out of my class saying he’s never coming to City Year again. I was worried about this student, so I sought advice from my program manager who urged me to try encouragement instead of punishment with this student. So I changed my tactics. Instead of looking solely for his misbehavior, I started looking for the good things he did in class and acknowledging that in front of the rest of the classroom. I also started saying hi to him in the halls and asking him about his interests.

On my birthday last Wednesday,  I learned from one of my teammates that this student whom I thought disliked me actually stood up for me to another student. He told the student not to judge me and that I give people chances;that news was the best birthday gift I received that day.

Now when I walk through the halls, I walk with a smile and talk in a loving voice. I still expect respect and compliance, but the main message I try to send to the students is that my number one concerns are their safety and learning. I only started implementing this strategy last week, and I already see the difference it has made. Last week I had students I don’t even know greeting me, complimenting me, and joking with me.  Two students who chronically came to class late because they were talking to friends are often the first ones in my classroom. Two other students that never used to participate and always looked disinterested in class are now constantly raising their hands.

This week has taught me that sometimes students need to feel cared for and respected before they will care and respect you. Expressing my love, passion, and commitment is bringing out the best in my students and bringing out the best in me. My passion for my students is what keeps me up late at night and what gets me up early in the morning. And I have my City Year team and my students at Mathson to thank for that.

-Brooke Yokoyama, Corps Member CYSJ

City Year Summer Leadership Academy 2012

My name Is Andy Le and I am a first generation college graduate born and raised in the heart of the Silicon Valley. I chose to serve with City Year to directly impact adolescents and give back to the community that made school an outlet that satisfied my hunger for knowledge and opportunities. With my firsthand experience, I hope to empower students to show them that they can achieve their goals despite any hardships.

On the very first day of my service year, I, along with 67 other corps members, renovated Clyde Arbuckle Elementary School’s campus by repainting the playgrounds and creating new designs on the blacktop to uplift school spirit just in time for the Summer Leadership Academy on Monday, August 6, 2012.

At Summer Leadership Academy students from second to eighth grade were welcomed eagerly by City Year corps members.  The school day began with morning rally which consisted of songs and games to get students’ minds active. After rally, students went to their classrooms to prepare for the new academic year by learning fundamentals such as math, literacy, and science. In between these subjects, students had physical education, recess, and interpersonal activities like peace builders, which focused on making students mindful of their behavior and how to build positive relationships.

I saw a change in my students’ demeanor and receptiveness to school through City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley’s Summer Leadership Academy 2012. My students were always excited and engaged with the content they were learning. Summer Leadership Academy created a positive association with school and education. My students became comfortable talking about their dreams and aspirations for college and future professions. I saw all of our students grow.

At the end of City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley’s Summer Leadership Academy 2012, we took our students on an exciting field trip to the Tech Museum. We led students through the Tech Museum to celebrate the end of Summer Leadership Academy and went through interactive exhibits including a music maker that allowed students to control the tempo and beat by rotating a cube, and a bike that generated energy for household items such as fans and lights. We even got to experience the iMax theater, which was amazing because it was a first for almost all of our students.

Overall, Summer Leadership Academy was an experience that I hold close to my heart to push me forward to get to know more students and help them achieve beyond minimum standards. I hope that through Summer Leadership Academy, I have made a long and lasting impression on my students to fuel their hunger for knowledge to accomplish all the goals they set forth without question and doubt.

-Andy Le, Corps Member CYSJ