By Danielle Clark, Team Leader at George Washington Carer STEM School, City Year Cleveland
One in three young people in America grow up without a mentor. This gap affects a child's performance in school, involvement in their community, participation in extracurricular, want to pursue leadership opportunities, and their desire to become a mentor themselves in the future.
City Year plays a unique role in our schools not only offering academic and after-school support, but also the mentorship we are able to improve students in attendance, behavior, and prepare them for their future. City Year AmeriCorps members work with students every week to set goals to encourage students to take initiative over their everyday decision making. In honor of January being National Mentoring month, I wanted to share some of the extraordinary work that one of my team members is doing to go above and beyond the weekly check in and check out with our students.
My name is Danielle Clark and I am serving as a Team Leader at George Washington Carver STEM School (Carver). I am serving my second year at Carver and have many of my own stories but I want to highlight one of my team members who I feel exemplifies mentorship. Guss Walls is a first year AmeriCorps member who I serve alongside at George Washington Carver STEM School and her bond with the middle school students is something truly special.
At 20 years old, Guss came to City Year after two years in the Army and as an experienced paramedic and firefighter. She is confident and ready to take on whatever challenge comes her way. Now, during her year of service, Guss is a part of ROTC, taking college courses, and preparing to care for a child of her own. Needless to say, Guss is tough and she is ready to work, no matter what.
Guss works in a science classroom with sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students at Carver. She starts her morning by welcoming her middle school students as they walk through the door. As soon as 8:01 AM hits, or better known to Guss as "late", she is on top of her students about why they are late and what they need to do to ensure they are on time tomorrow. She continues this routine and attendance coaching throughout the morning as students trickle into school. She does not accept excuses and continues to tell her students, "I'm not doing this for me. I'm saying all of this so you can take control and be successful for yourself. I won't be here to coach you for your whole life."
After attendance check-ins, Guss begins her rounds for behavior goal setting. She sits down and creates individualized goals with her students to improve their self-confidence, leadership, decision-making, and personal responsibility. Guss pushes her students to make their own goals and pushes each students' investment.
Next, Guss is mediating conflict between students. Our students have designated Guss, as the go-to person for advice and she is always offering a listening ear. All of these tasks are done before first period, after Guss dives into her academic support.
During her downtime throughout the day, Guss is planning. She is helping teammates create plans to get quality intervention time with students who are behind and she is altering our behavior Check-in-Check-out system so it is a daily goal setting, which has proven more effective. She has created slips for students to turn in with their work after time spent with an AmeriCorps member, which identifies what the student has learned, what they maybe struggled with, and what they enjoyed. This helps us keep our partner teachers informed on our intervention time and to encourage reflection and academic ownership from our students.
'Mentorship' just begins to describe the quality time and work Guss does with our students daily at George Washington Carver STEM School. Guss has been a mentor to each and every middle school student she has worked with and is offering mentorship to our team along the way. Guss' hard work from the minute the day starts, to the minute it ends, is not only supporting our student’s success trajectory but encouraging our students to provide mentorship to other students in the building. Talk about making an impact!