Written by Nolan Benson, City Year Milwaukee AmeriCorps member serving at Dr. George Washington Carver Academy of Mathematics and Science

December and January were my two most challenging months so far as a City Year Milwaukee AmeriCorps member. My morale plummeted with the temperature as December 22nd grew closer. I felt drained throughout the first two weeks of January between illness and the everyday rigor of service. I approach challenges with a growth mindset, so much so, that amidst this time of depleted energy I decided to apply for a team leader position. That may sound surprising to some, but not to the people who know me. Those two months enacted many hours of self-reflection about my career and my life with my fiancée. Hopeful to start my own non-profit someday, and taking into account what my service year has taught me, I can only imagine what a year in a leadership position within City Year Milwaukee would teach me.

Now I sit a week removed from feeling completely healthy and so far I feel good. I’ve reset myself in my routine, and I’ve reset my mindset. I have built even stronger relationships than I could’ve imagined with most of my scholars. I’m asked everyday by about ten scholars whether they can come up for lunch, but unfortunately I can’t take them all.

I value my relationships with my scholars over any other aspect of my service experience because I know that it’s important to highlight the positives in all of my scholars, especially after STAR testing (the standardized test that my students take a few times a year). The emphasis lately from staff and teachers has been about STAR scores, but STAR only gives me a glimpse into one part of many in my scholars’ lives. I have already had one of my students who I am particularly close with move to Appleton this year, and thinking about saying goodbye to that one scholar reminds me how difficult it will be to say goodbye to all of them. So, what happens after those goodbyes? Graduation?

I used to consider myself open-minded, but that open-minded attitude pales in comparison to my mindset today. I’ve grown as a leader, an event planner, a writer, a mentor, a friend, and a fiancé. My scholars inspire me every day to work to be a better individual and teammate. I see City Year’s mission as a collective effort that’s part of an even bigger collective effort to fight social injustice. I have much more to learn to work towards being a leader of social justice warriors. I am expending my current energy in applying for a position as a Team Leader for the 2018-19 school year. Regardless of whether I am offered a position or not, City Year has shown me a passion for social justice and activism. I plan to continue to be an activist well beyond my years at City Year.

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