Tariq Mohammed is a Cleveland native who proudly served two years as a City Year Cleveland AmeriCorps member at Franklin D. Roosevelt Academy on Cleveland’s East side.
During college, Tariq considered participating in a year of community service and during a break of his senior year at Miami University, Tariq shadowed a friend, who was serving as a City Year Cleveland AmeriCorps member. “During my visit, I was able to witness the mission of City Year taking place right before my eyes. Being able to see the power of the near-peer relationship between an AmeriCorps member and a student and the delivery of academic interventions, was amazing. In that short period of time, I understood the importance of the AmeriCorps member role - serving as a mentor, a coach, and an educator. This is why I decided to commit myself to City Year and a year of service.”
After serving for a year with City Year (where he primarily worked with 5th graders), Tariq decided to return as a second year AmeriCorps member, which allowed him to work with the same group of students from the previous year. During his second year, he saw immense growth from the now 6th grade students. This school year, Tariq has returned to City Year Cleveland as a staff member. He now serves as the Impact Manager at Franklin D Roosevelt Academy, where he can continue to impact the students he worked with by managing the new AmeriCorps members as they give a year of service.
“What is even more meaningful to me is being able to continue to support them on their journeys toward becoming successful scholars,” said Tariq.
Tariq is reminded of one of his 6th graders, Miracle*, who is a testament of how believing in oneself can make a difference. Miracle was chronically absent from school and was likely to have to repeat the fifth grade when Tariq first met her. She had missed a month of school before she started working with City Year. “It was my duty to help troubleshoot this issue in order to help her attend school more frequently. A student cannot learn unless they are in school,” said Tariq.
City Year deploys AmeriCorps members to serve, utilizing the Whole School Whole Child method. This method uses performance metrics to measure impact. Based on the research that identifies four indicators that place students at risk for dropping out of school, City Year works in partnership with school staff to regularly monitor student performance in the early warning indicators — Attendance, Behavior, and Coursework (English and math).
One in 10 students in kindergarten and the first grade are chronically absent, and by sixth grade, chronic absence becomes one of the early warning signs that a student may drop out of high school.
When Tariq first meet with Miracle, he informed her that they would be setting goals every week to keep track of her progress. “I made sure during this meeting, like many of the meetings to follow, that I would not force goals. She needed to establish her own goals so she felt ownership over them and would meet them,” explained Tariq. In their first meeting, Tariq found out a lot about Miracle by simply asking her what was causing her reoccurring absences.
“I asked her about how she gets to school and was able to find out she takes the bus. When I asked her when the bus leaves and when does she arrive at the bus station," Tariq said. "I found out that she was getting to the bus stop only a minute before it was scheduled to arrive. I suggested we adjust the time she gets to the bus stop. We agreed that she should try arriving five minutes before the bus arrives, which was enough time to catch the bus but also wasn't too much time where she did not feel safe waiting alone at the bus stop. Our original goal was for her to meet this goal three days a week, but the goal was quickly adjusted to all 5 days as she surpassed the original goal quickly,” Tariq said.
By mid-year, her teachers began to notice the improvements in her attendance and she was getting back on track. “I was most proud of Miracle when she was invited to City Year’s perfect attendance pizza party, which required students to attend school every day for a month.” This year, Miracle was recognized by the school for her efforts by being awarded a special award and prize from the McDonald’s “Get to school Drive" initiative, which is based on school attendance.
“As an AmeriCorps member and now as a City Year staff member, being able to provide assistance and improve student’s self-management skills is very meaningful to me because it serves as a big component in their maturing process in becoming more independent young men and women,” said Tariq.
*The student name has been changed to conceal the identity of the student involved.