Written by Valarie Kemp, AmeriCorps member proudly serving on the Entergy Louisiana Team at Broadmoor Middle School. 

As I approach the halfway point for my service year, I have compiled a list of a few things I wish I had known as an incoming City Year AmeriCorps member:

10. Remember that kids are kids

As we get older, it is hard to remember what it was like being a kid. We forget the goofiness of a second grader, the drama-filled life of an eighth grader, and a hard-headedness of an eleventh grader. They are finicky. One day they will want nothing to do with you, and the next, they will be upset that you forgot to greet them when they walked in the class. Don’t take it personally. They are just kids. 

9. Your team will become a second family

I spend about 50 hours a week with my team.  I spend more time with them than anyone else in my life. We share stories about our students, lives, and everything in between. We have become each other’s comedians and confidants. I can only hope that your team is as close as ours is. 

8.  The Uniform garners respect

The red jacket isn’t the most fashion-forward in my wardrobe, but it is the one that turns the most heads. It has started numerous conversations and gotten me a few free cups of coffee. When I walk out in it, students I have never seen greet me with a chorus of “Hello City Year”.

7. You see your city in a new light

I have lived in Baton Rouge for about two years, but it wasn’t until I started City Year that I really learned about the city. For two years, I had been stuck in my little bubble of LSU and its surrounding areas. I didn’t know about the little hole in the walls around the city. I didn’t know about the different types of local art exhibits around the city. I didn’t know about the level of poverty and lack of resources in the schools that I drove by daily. City Year has helped me truly see Baton Rouge.

6. You are making a difference

As you go about your day-to-day activities, it is easy to get discouraged and not see the impact of your service. It’s hard to see the change you’re making when you are so focused on the individual days. Take a little time and look at the good you have done.

5. Make time for self-care

City Year is an emotionally, physically, and mentally taxing experience. It is not hard to let this consume you. Doing everything from supporting students, team members, and teachers, it is easy to forget about yourself. It’s important for you to prioritize your health and happiness. Maintaining balance in your life is essential not only for mental health but also for your ability to be the best AmeriCorps member you can be.

 4.  City Year culture is one that can’t be beat

At first, the culture is a lot to take in. The positivity and enthusiasm can come off as forced. But after weeks of early mornings, the happiness and positive energy are needed. The focus on the positive aspects of life and the day will keep your mind on the bigger picture of your service.

 3.  You are more than a tutor

When City Year was first explained to me, it sounded almost like a glorified tutoring program. As I started my year, I realized that this job requires more than just helping students with homework. You will be a confidante, a mentor, a party planner, and interior decorator. I have been a learning bridge between my partner teacher and students.

2.   Your service isn’t about you

It may seem like an obvious one, but this is something I feel a lot of us forget from day to day. As young adults, most moments of our lives are about us, but this is a year of service. To get past this, focus on the goals and values of City Year.

1. City Year is just one year

Just like all of your school years before, there will be times when it feels like the year is moving in slow motion and the end seems too far away. But just like all of those school years, there will be times that time flies by. Take time and appreciate every minute of your service year. Cherish every moment with your students and teammates. It’s only a year to make a change, make the most out of it!

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