Written by Danetria Johnson, Second Year AmeriCorps member proudly serving on the Lamar Advertising Team at Melrose Elementary School. 

My name is Danetria Johnson and I am an AmeriCorps member proudly serving on the Lamar Advertising Team at Melrose Elementary School! I began my City Year journey in December of 2016; that’s right, I came in as a Mid-Year AmeriCorps! From my Mid-Year perspective to my Second Year, I can honestly say that my reasons for serving have definitely changed over the course of the last year.

Over the last year, City Year Baton Rouge has taught me many things about life. First thing being, change is possible. So why do I serve? I remember the first time I was asked this question, surprisingly; the answer did not quickly come to me. My first response was very vague something like, “uh I chose to serve because I want to help make a difference in the lives of others.” Although that is still very true there is now more passion behind this (honestly… kind of cliché) statement. After almost completing my second year of service, I realize that I did not choose to serve. I was meant to do so. I have so many reasons for why I serve that it would be almost impossible for me to come up with a cookie cutter phrase. Every day I wake up and put my red jacket on to come to a place where I matter. More importantly, my purpose is to let children know that they matter.

The cause of this epiphany happened suddenly when one of my most challenging students finally turned in her homework. I know that this may seem small to some, but this was the turning point in both of our school year. Now that I look back on it, she reminded me so much of my past self. She was hard headed and smart-mouthed, but she had so much potential and also like me, HATED math. After weeks of encouraging her to try her best and giving her a little tough love when she would not complete assignments, it was time for us to have a conversation; I asked her why she continuously did not turn in assignments. After she explained to me that she had no one at home that could help her. We made a deal, I told her that anytime she needed help we could work on her homework during breakfast time. She began taking advantage of my offer and before we knew it she had brought her grade up from an F to a C. This was not just a victory for my student, I felt like I had risen my grade up too! I serve because I love this feeling of accomplishment. By instilling a new determination and work ethic in my student, I can say that I am part of tools that she will take on with her for the rest of her life. 

I am honored to serve and live in a community much like the one I grew up in. Serving with City Year Baton Rouge also caused me to reflect on my childhood, I often think about how different my path would have been if I had an AmeriCorps member in my 4th grade math class. I think about how my self-esteem would have flourished at an early age if I had that one person to push me to try hard. Lastly, I serve to be the person that I needed as a child. 

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