By Brenden Craigmile
Senior AmeriCorps member and Team Leader for the Serve DC team serving at King Elementary School
It took three months for my 3rd graders to really get attached to me as their City Year, and another six months before they decided I was better than any other one they’d had. The latter was a particularly coveted honorific, barely edging out the reigning “Mr. Tim.” The love and trust I’d built with my students (“my kids”) and my Flagship team (“my family”) was what kept me coming back day after day, and what helped me to love City Year. It’s for them that I knew I needed to come back as a Team Leader and help forge the next generation of AmeriCorps members.
And while City Year remains the ever-growing, ever-idealizing, ever-amazing organization I’ve come to know and love, the real change has been in me. I know it started the first day back, in the growing heat of a Washington, DC July morning. All of the staff and newly-minted Senior AmeriCorps members gathered in our conference room to become reintroduced to each other and to our service. Whereas before the staff may have been somewhat removed from my everyday service, and may have perhaps been a little intimidating to talk to, now we were far closer in common purpose and action. To paraphrase one wonderful staff member, “Ya’ll are basically staff, and I’ll treat you like that and expect you to act like it.” I had immediately found my new family and was welcomed into the fold without hesitation or hardship.
The next month was a blur of insightful trainings, a powerful Academy in Boston, and a deliberate rush to prepare our site for the incoming corps. I was graced with the opportunity to serve in an established partnership under the guidance of an Impact Manager that was one of the finest Senior AmeriCorps members to ever serve (of which I remind him readily). And by the end of the four weeks, I felt ready, if not a little nervous, for the oncoming Corps Storm.
And they arrived, all 169 of them. My Founding Team was tight-knit within the first day (Stone Soup, represent!), and that bond will thankfully remain throughout the year in the Idealist’s Journey. My Flagship Team on the other hand, the one that I will lead for the next 10 months, has taken some time to warm up to me, and I’m seeing the same gauging and weighing I saw all those months ago amongst my 3rd graders: “Who is this guy? Why is he so peppy at 7:45 AM? Do I really have to text him when I’m running five minutes late?”
Yet in spite of these perceived misgivings of me, they’re proving themselves adept AmeriCorps members, learning quickly and ingratiating themselves in the school’s culture and their classrooms already.
They’re clad in their Red Jackets and khakis now, on their way to being properly uniformed AmeriCorps members, things are ramping up to our Opening Day event, and I can’t help but beam in pride. They have the makings of brilliant and driven City Year AmeriCorps members, and can’t wait to see what they’ll become…even if they do steal my title.