By Kelsey Lineburg, Senior City Year Baton Rouge AmeriCorps member, proudly serving on the Irene W. and C. B. Pennington Foundation team at Kenilworth Science and Technology School.
“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” (Isaac Newton)
“SPIRIT….DISCIPLINE….PURPOSE….PRIDE.” These words, chanted in perfect unison, echoed throughout the Hilton Capitol Conference Center Ballroom last Thursday night as 45 AmeriCorps members entered the City Year Baton Rouge (CYBR) 2018 School House Rock Gala. This entrance set a precedent for the rest of the evening by demonstrating the collective collaboration, dedication, and passion of our AmeriCorps members, staff, and champions.
AmeriCorps member, Marquis Robinson, and current City Year Baton Rouge Board Chair, Laura Poché, made the evening’s opening remarks. Marquis shared a story about how his Starfish student, Corey, has impacted his life as a role-model and mentor. His words were a powerful reminder of the daily impact our CYBR AmeriCorps members have on students throughout Baton Rouge every day. Poché followed Marquis’ message by sharing the significance of the #BRKindnessRocks that had been decorated by students and AmeriCorps members and placed on each table for guests to take. She said, “There are many definitions of the word ‘rock’. ‘Rocks’ represent a strong foundation, just like City Year AmeriCorps members provide every day to the schools and students in Baton Rouge. ‘Rock’ also means to PARTY, and that is what we are going to do tonight!” The spirit of these opening remarks set the tone for the rest of the evening and made everyone excited to continue celebrating the achievements of our students and AmeriCorps members.
In addition to celebrating the achievements of our students, the 2018 School House Rock Gala also honored one of our amazing sponsors, AT&T. Since 2016, AT&T has been a powerful champion for our Broadmoor High School (BHS) team. The impact CYBR has made at BHS would not have been possible without the support of AT&T. Not only has AT&T been there to provide financial support, but they have also been active in supporting programs, events, and service projects at the school. AT&T is committed to serving local high school students to prepare them to become successful leaders in their communities. AT&T Louisiana President, Sonia Perez, was honored with an iconic City Year Red Jacket by Broadmoor High School Team Leader, Brea Butler-Gilton, and Regional Vice President, Ryann Denham. Sonia shared her passion for service and continued support for Broadmoor High School. The discipline and collaboration of Sonia, AT&T, and the Broadmoor High School team demonstrate how it truly “takes a village” to #makebetterhappen.
Sonia’s powerful words were brought to life when Amber LaCour, a Broadmoor High School teacher; Brooke Kemerer, a Broadmoor High School AmeriCorps member; and Corey Smith*, a Broadmoor High School 9th grader shared about the impact City Year has had on their lives. This is the second year that Mrs. LaCour has had a City Year AmeriCorps member in her classroom, and, looking towards the future, she hopes to continue working with AmeriCorps members at BHS. From supporting her after the “Great Flood of 2016”, to providing excellent service in her classroom, to being there to support each and every student at BHS, she believes that City Year has played a prominent role in her student’s growth. Her words were followed by those of Brooke Kemerer, who shared her passion for service and education and introduced one of her Starfish students, Corey Smith*. Corey expressed his gratitude for Mrs. LaCour and Ms. Brooke, and he believes that their help will allow him to pursue his dreams of becoming an investment banker. It was obvious that the passion and purpose demonstrated by the commitment and service of Mrs. LaCour and Brooke have created ripples of hope to many students at Broadmoor High School, just like Corey*.
As I sat in my seat listening to the powerful words of each presenter, I could not help but feel an overwhelming sense of pride to be a part of an organization that is built upon the idealism and commitment of young adults and community champions. One of these speakers, Congressman Garret Graves, is a U.S. Representative for the 6th District of Louisiana. He spoke on behalf of the importance of national and local service, and he expressed his gratitude for being in a room filled with people who all could agree on the importance of this topic. Another speaker, Jennifer Williams, is a CYBR alum that followed her passion for education and, following her year of service, went on to become a 2nd grade teacher at Baton Rouge Bridge Academy. Now, Jennifer has the opportunity to work with a City Year AmeriCorps member in HER classroom! Jennifer also took a moment to recognize many of the other CYBR alumni who have continued to follow their passion for education by becoming teachers in Baton Rouge.
The service my past, present, and future fellow AmeriCorps members and I do every day would not be possible without the support of our community champions. As Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. I feel truly grateful to be able to stand on the strong shoulders and foundations of this community. It is the spirit, discipline, purpose, and pride in all of us that allows this work to be done. Thank you to everyone that attended the 2018 School House Rock Gala. We hope to see you next year!
*Student's name has been removed to protect his identity.