Written by Laureanna Crump, Second Year AmeriCorps member proudly serving on the Irene W. and C. B. Pennington Foundation team at Kenilworth Science & Technology School.

My time with City Year has been an emotional rollercoaster. However, there has been one constant throughout it all: my team. Going into my second year, I was extremely worried about working with a new group of people. “Would they like me? Would I like them?”I asked myself throughout Basic Training Academy (BTA). During week two of BTA, we were told to go outside, find our names on the back of a puzzle piece, and then find other AmeriCorps members with pieces that fit our own. I flipped my name over to reveal the bottom corner of the Jimmy Neutron logo, which was fitting because we would be serving at Kenilworth Science & Technology School (KST). I scrambled through the rest of the corps to figure out who had pieces to match mine. Then, it happened; I met the four other people that were joining me at KST. My first thought was, “This team is very small,” and that was immediately followed by, “This is going to be a long year.” You see, I was eager to meet new people, but I refused to believe that anyone could replace my old team.

After we matched our puzzle pieces, our Impact Manager and Team Leader led us into a small classroom to introduce ourselves. Seabron is an 18-year-old from California who is pursuing a degree in Biology. Jimecia is a 21-year-old who was born and raised in Baton Rouge and Norman is a 24-year-old from Georgia, both of whom wanted to pursue a career in social work. Last, but certainly not least, Precious, the newlywed who married her high school sweetheart right out of college.

As the week progressed, our team of five quickly bonded over sarcasm and the challenge of programming more than 500 Chromebook computers during our first official day at KST. Our team bonded so quickly during a two-day period that we began to worry about the effect new team members would have on our current dynamic. Since we were a small group, we were expecting two more members to have a full team. The following day, we met Christy. Christy is a New Orleans native and aspiring teacher who took a break from her undergraduate studies to serve with City Year. She was quiet at first – so quiet, that she was almost impossible to read. I assumed she was trying to observe the team first or she was just more concerned with being in the classroom than she was making a solid relationship with the rest of us. Either way, I felt she was a genuine person who didn’t intend to negatively affect our budding relationship. Shawn came three weeks later. We lucked out by gaining such a loving personality in Christy, that I didn’t believe that we could be this fortunate twice. Shawn is an inquisitive, ball of creative energy that used to play for the Human Jukebox, a band at Southern University. He was the missing piece that we never knew we needed.

City Year has always been challenging, but I thought there would be consistency in seeing some of my former students every day. Boy, was I wrong. My school  changed its entire schedule and its expectations of City Year. The administration trusted us more, and with that newfound trust came even more responsibility. With the constant service throughout the day, my team and I are running to each other with open arms after bus duty because sometimes that’s the only team time we get to see each other during the day. I went from a team who disliked circling up at the end of the day to debrief to a team who loves to gather and catch up at the end of the day. The love doesn’t stop there. We may not be able to see each other as much during school hours, but we make up for it by doing a lot of other things together (i.e. Halloween Movie Night, impromptu whole team sleepovers, preparation for leadership development opportunities, “CYBR KST-giving” and sitting with each other for every whole corps event).

Despite having to deal with challenges this year, we have stayed connected to each other and have learned the importance of perseverence. These people are no longer the people I just remember random icebreaker facts. They are my friends. Seabron is the person I can always count on to give me fresh new insights on a subject. Jimecia and Precious are my soulmates. Christy is always full of inspiration and motivational words of wisdom. Whenever you’re down, she’s always waiting to uplift you and to be that breath of fresh air that you need at any given moment. Norman is always full of sarcasm and ready to make you angry and then laugh. He also loves teaching us about the Mexican culture. Shawn is always moving some part of his body, whether it’s through dancing or fidgeting with some object. He lights up every room he enters and he’s always close by to remind you that failures aren’t just failures, they are in fact, progress towards a greater goal.

I am thankful for my teammates. I know that we will stay close in life after City Year. In order to truly #makebetterhappen, we must take care of ourselves first, so we challenge each other not to become stagnant and procrastinate on our own goals. Do we have arguments? All of the time. Do we hold grudges? Nope. We have too many students looking up to us to drag out trivial matters. We, instead, choose to exemplify the City Year idea to seek truly effective communication.” This way, we can model to our students what healthy disagreements look like and can resolve most issues immediately. There is no other group I’d rather work with for my last AmeriCorps year. I look forward to spending the next few months with these characters and walking across the stage with them during graduation in May 2018. 

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