AT&T has long been a City Year champion, investing both in the national organization, as well as the community of Little Rock, Arkansas. As a team sponsor for four years, they have had an impact on many students, including this year’s senior class valedictorian, Hillary*.
City Year invited Hillary and AT&T’s Melinda Faubel to meet and share their experiences from their different perspectives. Melinda is Director of External Affairs at AT&T, and sits on the City Year Little Rock board. Hillary, who first encountered City Year in elementary school and again in high school, is student body president and interested in studying engineering, which was Melinda’s major.
Here’s an excerpt from their conversation:
Hillary: What do you like about being involved in City Year?
Melinda: That's a great question. I personally like being involved because of the City Year AmeriCorps members and what City Year does to help students like you. If not for City Year, students may not have stayed in school or been able to advance to the next grade. From a business standpoint, AT&T needs employees who have graduated from high school and who are prepared to go on to college and are prepared for the workforce. AT&T has been in Arkansas for over 135 years and has a long history of supporting the communities where we live and work. AT&T Aspire focuses on helping students succeed in high school. City Year is a perfect fit because that's exactly what they do.
Hillary: What are you most proud of that’s City Year-related?
Melinda: The growth I've seen with City Year is amazing and as a result many more students have stayed on track in school. Also, the quality of City Year AmeriCorps members is so good - I'm really proud of that.
Hillary: I agree.
Melinda: Good! What are you most proud of school-wise?
Hillary: I'm most proud of being student body president and then holding my valedictorian status that I have right now. And I'm most proud of it because my motivation came from my grandfather. He passed away my seventh grade year, and we had a very close relationship, so when I got into ninth grade, I said I would do that for him, and I'm just very happy that it's my twelfth grade year and I've succeeded so far. And I'm happy City Year could help me with that, because that’s been very close to my heart.
Melinda: Oh, your grandfather would be so proud... How have you changed in the past few years?
Hillary: I've changed a lot. Challenges helped me, my leadership skills have increased a tremendous amount, my work ethic has increased, like, just everything! I've changed all around, I think, over these years. And I think that's what high school is for.
Melinda: So, do you think City Year made a difference with you, when you saw them again when you got into high school? Were you excited?
Hillary: It was very cool because high school was different from middle school and City Year tutoring and afterschool really helped me out a lot, because they've been where I am before. My City Year was Mr. Andre and he was really cool. He worked with us in ninth grade, in all our subjects, and he made sure our grades were good. And he just hung out with us, and so, it was really cool. And if you had problems at lunch you could go to him and we did. He also gave us really cool Christmas cards and I still have my card because he personalized messages. He was a really big help.
Melinda: Were you ever a struggling student, like when you were in ninth grade? Was it hard for you?
Hillary: I'm a student where I might struggle at first, but once I find a way I just keep it. So, the beginning of my ninth grade year I had to be more organized and find what note-taking method was good for me, and find if I needed a study schedule and stuff like that. So Mr. Andre helped me.
Melinda: What's one of your favorite subjects?
Hillary: My favorite subject is math. I have my challenges in math, but I like to be challenged, so math really does it for me.
Melinda: That was mine, too. Will you come back to your school and see City Year?
Hillary: Of course! I will come back to my school when I get older and get a career and I'll donate money to my school and come back to help. I want to really help with my school. Because my school was my foundation. It started me.
Melinda: Well, that's so cool because you obviously have school pride.
Hillary: Yeah, and as student body president right now, that's what I'm really trying to work on. I just want to do something when I get older so they can see, like, it doesn't matter... You can come from here and still do something.
Melinda: Do you think that City Year helps build that pride?
Hillary: Yes! City Year is very fun. City Year comes to sporting events, they do things in the cafeteria; they really help! And they're really bubbly. I remember in ninth grade in the morning when I rode the bus, they would be right there cheering, "Good morning," and saying chants, and it was really cool.
Melinda: Tell me how it makes you feel to know that business leaders in our own community really care about your success.
Hillary: I think it makes me feel good. It makes you feel like you can really accomplish something and people believe in you. And it just makes you want to succeed even more. It gives you even more drive.
Melinda: Do you think City Year has helped you develop that leadership and that ability to serve?
Hillary: Yes, ma'am. City Year has helped me out a lot. Where I've gotten right now, I would not be there without City Year AmeriCorps members, because they've been in college and they gave me advice about life and mentoring and everything. They've helped a tremendous amount.
What do you hope for students at my school and for future students of my school?
Melinda: I hope there are a lot more students like you, and I know that City Year will be a part of that, because obviously they've been a big part of your growth like you talked about. And I think it's cool that you want to come back and serve your high school, and that you're doing that already by trying to really increase the school spirit. Someday, when you look up the bio of J. A. Fair, I believe your name will be there as one of the notable alumni.