A Day in the Life, Inspired by Students

Aside

Growing up in Oregon, I had never heard of City Year. At the University of Oregon, being the eager freshman I was, I talked to a career counselor who mentioned City Year as a potential opportunity to take during a year off from school. I applied to where most-needed before the first application deadline, giddy with excitement. I signed up to serve because I knew that I had a lot to learn and hopefully a lot to offer. Now I serve because the students that I work with inspire me. They motivate me, they ground me, they challenge me, they may frustrate me, but without a doubt they make me smile and make me laugh. All of this fun starts during 1st period, where I tutor the first few of 8 students that I will spend individualized intervention sessions with throughout the school day. One of the students that I tutor in literacy is Jaylin.

Written by Laree Foster, corps member on the Clyde Fischer San Francisco 49ers Foundation Team

Written by Laree Foster, corps member on the Clyde Fischer San Francisco 49ers Foundation Team

When I met Jaylin, her attitude was polarized as either spunky or defeated. She is so clearly a bright girl, but when challenged I saw her shut down, a quality I recognized in myself. As months passed as her Extended Learning Time (ELT) Bridge leader, I began to gain her trust. Enough trust to learn of her broken family dynamics and her belief that her teacher does not believe in her. All that I could do was encourage her to try her best. Her best began to be better, and now her confidence is higher than ever. Now she is proud of her schoolwork and she has exceeded the 6th grade benchmark in fluency and reading comprehension, but what I am most proud about is how she is no longer stifled by reading a big word or solving a long math problem. I know that she can do these things without help. And most importantly, she knows that she can, too.

When I am not tutoring, I get to break up the day by playing football with kids during lunch, assisting with student council meetings, or leading Reader’s Theater during a special education class, before heading off to Room 55 where I meet my BRIDGE class promptly at 2:45. Up until this point in the year, I have led two literacy blocks during ELT each day but I am in the process of transitioning into Co-Behavior Coordinator where I will work with students who exhibit anti-social behavior or have more intense social and emotional needs. After my year of service ends, I will be a senior studying psychology and special education. I hope to build upon my experiences with education, to keep them in my mind as I one day hope to become a school psychologist, where I will meet many Jaylin’s, Fabian’s, Jesus’s, Jonathan’s and Angela’s again.

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How I Know I am Making a Difference

This morning Jakob shared his story with the guests of our 2nd Annual Deloitte Corporate Breakfast. His words helped fill the room with an understanding the impact City Year is making. Read his story below:

corps member Jakob Rosenberg speaking at the 2nd Annual Deloitte Corporate Breakfast

corps member Jakob Rosenberg speaking at the 2nd Annual Deloitte Corporate Breakfast

My name is Jakob Rosenberg and I’m 23 years old from the Austin, Texas and I’m proudly serving as the Team Leader for the 49ers Foundation Team at Clyde L. Fischer Middle School. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University. I’ve known I wanted to serve a year of national service ever freshman year of college. I see a lot of things in our country that I don’t think are just. I serve because I want to take action and do something, instead of talking or complaining about it. Our youth will one day shape the world. I want to make sure they’re ready for that challenge and are educated to do so positively.

The question I get asked most frequently is how I know I’m making a difference. There are two students during my first corps year last year that really made me realize the impact City Year has. Jose was a new student at Fischer last year who didn’t have many friends. He was in our City Year after-school program and it didn’t take long for him to look up to us as role models. He would even pretend to be a Corps Member, printing out the City Year logo at the library and putting it on his own uniform. He would talk about all the ways he was going to help promote peace and help others. He soon started to make new friends too.  What struck me the most was the letter he gave me on the last day of school that stated how he’ll never forget me, how much we made a difference in his life, and as Jose said, “I know what to be like when I grow up.” This really showed me how we can be such positive role models for our students.

The Honorable Chuck Reed,  Mayor of San Jose and Jakob Rosenberg, corps member

The Honorable Chuck Reed, Mayor of San Jose and Jakob Rosenberg, corps member

Besides being role models on campus, City Year’s primary focus is providing academic coursework support in English and Math. I worked with a 6th grade student struggling in math named Carlos. Carlos began the year receiving a 25% on his math benchmark test and after working with him four times a week for a whole year, Carlos ended up receiving a 80% on his final math benchmark exam. Carlos showed he wasn’t a 25% student, he can reach the goals we made, and he can do what he puts his mind to.

The reason why I’m serving a second year as a Team Leader was because I love the work we do, I know how important it is, and, personally, I wanted to grow and develop myself professionally. I’ve already had opportunities to do this through leading 13 Corps Members who were in my boots last year, observing and giving feedback, as well as ensuring our after-school program runs without fault.

 — Written by Jakob Rosenberg, corps member at the San Francisco 49ers Foundation Team at Fischer Middle School  

Why I Serve

by: Neil Shah

My name is Neil Shah and I proudly serve at Clyde Fischer Middle School along side of 10 other corps members. Together, we support approximately 550 students during the daily school hours and provide 1-on-1 tutoring interventions for specific “Focus List” students to help them reach benchmark levels. Once the day has ended, we provide an academically-focused after school program for about 150 students reinforcing math and literacy skills learned during the school day and enrichment classes ranging from health to hip-hop.

I don’t personally have a story of struggle or pain that I have experienced that has led me down a path of service. Instead, I have a rational and whole-hearted belief in the power of education due to my upbringing. My grandfather, who was uneducated, saved every penny he ever earned in order to send his 5 children to the best school in Mumbai. He believed that it was necessary to make sacrifices in order to have faith in the results that followed. Today because of his sacrifices, all of his children are now physicians practicing in the United States. In such a competitive world, education is a priority because it allows one to control and leverage their futures while developing as competent and insightful people.

I am originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan where I attended the University of Michigan and received my Bachelor’s in Biopsychology and Medical Anthropology. I then went on to obtain my Master’s in Physiology and Biophysics. I hope to pursue a career in medicine in the near future. This year, I have decided to deviate from this “written” path and serve as an educator. The reason I have found success in my education is because of the teachers I’ve had that took an interest in me. They were able to pinpoint my strengths and push me down a focused and rigorous path because they understood my fascination with certain educational material. They provided structure, discipline, and true instruction that developed my character and cultivated my interest in science. I now hope to instill a sense of drive in the students we serve while also fostering a sensitive and caring environment so that struggling students feel safe to make mistakes and try. I tell my students that in order to succeed one must experience failure.

One of my intensive math students, David, was an 8th grader performing below 4th grade level and struggled with basic multiplication. He was known as a bad student last year; throwing cherry bombs in bathroom stalls, tipping desks over in class, and fighting with students. He was transferred to another math class because of an issue with his previous teacher. I told him before we entered a tutor session that I wanted him to work hard and do his best in order to truly see what he could accomplish. I encouraged him to be an independent thinker, make decisions, and voice his opinion about things. Now, whenever I walk into the classroom he gets up, pushes in his chair, and shakes my hand respectfully before each tutor session. He recently approached me and said, “I’m interested in art and architecture but don’t understand why math is important.” I responded by introducing the concept of the Cartesian plane and graphing points. Using just coordinates, he was able to generate his own blueprints. I am proud to say he has raised his failing grade to a C and is on his way to catching up with his classmates.

City Year provides the perfect avenue to have direct access to student potential and allow them to take chances, explore themselves, and give them space to dream. As a student, David has the ability to succeed locked inside of him. Now, he can take solace in the fact that the yellow jackets will always be there to push him to the limits and lend a hand, just in case his faith in his abilities ever waivers.

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

Motivation for two City Years

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.

Nancy Adjei

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.

Nancy (far left) is the recruitment project leader this year.

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