City Year believes education can transform the lives of young people and propel them towards successful futures and it is our hope that every student we work with will not only graduate from high school, but also go on to college. College Signing Day, an initiative started by former First Lady Michelle Obama, expresses this same hope for young people all over the country. Those who choose to further their education should be celebrated. It is monumental for our students and our AmeriCorps members who work with them. City Year San Antonio alum, Ryan Dillon, shares his journey with three of his former students from the classroom to their college acceptance letters.
By: Ryan Dillon
City Year San Antonio, '13-'15
I am a CY alum (‘13-15) from Plano, TX, currently completing my bachelor’s degree in Music Education at Kansas State University. I served in San Antonio (at Sam Houston High School), first as a first-year AmeriCorps member then as a Senior AmeriCorps member.
I served with City Year because I was becoming disillusioned with the teaching profession as a student. I am hands-on by nature and my early college experience didn’t help me to visualize what classroom teaching looks like in reality.
I was looking for in-depth classroom experiences to help me see what the job would be like in real-time. I applied for City Year with my dad’s encouragement, was accepted, and moved to San Antonio. Over the course of my first year, I made deep connections with my students and the school community. I had the opportunity to contribute, so I stayed another year.
I met Kiara*, Jada*, and Tara* during my first year in the corps and had the opportunity to see them grow over the course of the next year. Kiara is one of the kindest, friendliest, and most determined people you will ever meet. Initially, she was quiet, and spent most of her time alone reading books instead of chatting with people. As I saw her connect with her group of friends (namely Jada and Tara), I began to see a much more outgoing and silly character. Jada is a strong leader. She has the backbone and the sass to prove it (if you don’t believe it, try being busy when she’s talking to you - she’ll get your attention pretty quickly!) Tara is extremely kind-hearted, and the kind of person you trust to always be honest (brutally, sometimes). She’s a good point of reference when considering how everyone else is feeling about a particular subject or event.
Between the three, I worked in the classroom with Kiara, so I can speak most about our work together. We’d spend time working on algebra assignments, and what helped was to have her explain her thought process to me. This way, instead of me telling her what to do, she could tell me what she was doing. This allowed us to figure out, together, what was causing trouble, then correct any confusion. During her sophomore year, Kiara blossomed as she began to work with “Mr. Kyle” in Geometry class. She developed an approach that worked for her. Kiara worked hard to understand the material and actively sought support when she had trouble.
Tara and Jada spent much of their time in the City Year room. They came in for math, English, after-school programs, and lunch time for study or just to hang out. They always joined us after school for tutoring, movies, Math nights, ELA nights, Open Mic events, garden events, and so on.
Between the three of them, our team saw positive attitudes and a work ethic that encouraged us and served as a strong example to their peers.
I am so excited to see the amazing people they will continue to grow into as they graduate high school. In a true reflection of Jada’s extraordinary gift of leadership, Jada plans to major in Political Science at Texas A&M in San Antonio. Her goal is to become a family lawyer, specifically in addressing child-support claims, in order to make sure that other kids have a better experience than she did in regard to financial worries.
While Tara is still exploring options for majors, she intends on having her own classroom in the future where she can help students to be successful in school. She will be attending San Antonio college in the fall.
Kiara plans on attending Schreiner University in San Antonio, where she will begin her studies in mechanical engineering before continuing on to biomedical engineering. Her ultimate goal is to design prosthetic limbs to help both wounded soldiers and civilians.
I am so proud of these three wonderful human beings and this goes to show what the joys from my years of service with City Year look like. My students have been, are, and will be phenomenal and I cannot wait to see what they accomplish in their lives, communities, and the world.
*Names have been changed to protect students’ privacy
To learn more about College Signing Day, click here.