by Laureanna Crump, City Year Baton Rouge '18
As graduation approached, I found myself in a place where many college seniors find themselves: nervous about the next step. Attending graduate school was the ultimate goal, but I wanted to take some time off before pursuing my next degree. I wanted to make a difference during my gap year, so I joined City Year Baton Rouge. I was excited to take a gap with City Year for several reasons:
- I would devote a year of my life to serve my community
- I would gain work experience and transferrable skills for any field (i.e. effective communication and leadership skills, adaptability/managing multiple priorities, multicultural sensitivity/awareness, computer literacy, analytical/research capabilities, etc.)
- I had time to complete graduate school prerequisites
- City Year had several resources to help City Year alumni pay for graduate school (i.e. Segal Education Award, University Partnership Scholarships, etc.)
- City Year was a one-year commitment…
…or so I thought. My decision to return for a second year of service with City Year Baton Rouge began with Isabella*, a 6th grade student. During lunch duty at the start of last year, Isabella approached me to ask me to attend her quinceañera, the Latin American celebration for a girl’s fifteenth birthday. Isabella was not one of my focus list students, so the only time she interacted with me was during lunch. Isabella had a fiery personality and deemed me her best friend. For the rest of the year, the other staff on lunch duty would send her to me any time she was upset. Her invitation was a turning point for me because she was about to turn twelve years old, yet was already inviting me to her fifteenth birthday celebration, the moment when her family will celebrate her transition into womanhood. When we began talking about birthday parties, I thought she was going to invite me to the one she was having in a couple of weeks. Realizing she wanted to include me in a milestone that was years away, I saw that our relationship meant more than a few conversations over lunch. She could picture me in her life after middle school, and now I desired to make the 3-year gap between her birthdays seem smaller. Considering the weight my relationships with my students held, I decided to apply to serve a second year with City Year.
After returning to the corps, I quickly found that being a part of my students’ 7th-grade year wasn’t the only advantage to serving a second year. My first team was the first City Year team that my school had seen. Therefore, when I wasn’t in the classroom, I spent most of my time building relationships with the school’s staff and administration to ensure this newfound partnership would remain successful upon my departure. The foundation that my team and I built in the 2016-2017 school year opened numerous doors for my current team and me this year. Over the summer, administration changed the school’s schedule to focus more on interventions, which gave City Year more responsibility and opportunity to make a difference with our students. I no longer have to ask my partner teachers if I can pull my students out. It’s expected, because students now have math and English Language Arts (ELA) lab interventions on their schedule. Last year, it was challenging to acquire the 900 minutes of dosage with each of our students that City Year requires for the school year. This year, my entire team completed dosage requirements before Thanksgiving break. Secondly, I didn’t have to spend the first nine weeks getting to know my students. We had a preexisting relationship, so I was able to lead my 50-minute intervention periods without having to learn the students’ personalities, with the exception of a few transfer students. Lastly, completing my first year gave me the confidence to facilitate my intervention and enrichment blocks, while collaborating with four different partner teachers, assisting with the inclusion class, a class that consists of students with and without learning disabilities that Isabella is part of, meeting with administration to ensure the execution of major school events went smoothly, and staying on top of required City Year assignments.
Looking back, I thought that I’d be returning to help these students improve their grades, attendance and behavior, but they ended up inspiring me in the end. I’ve spent countless hours trying to instill into my students the importance of studying and completing homework. It occurred to me that I needed to practice the same urgency with my own goals. I wanted to become more involved with City Year outside of the classroom. Now that I had a year under my belt and have learned the ins and outs of time management through serving with City Year, I was able to join City Year Baton Rouge’s (CYBR) Communications Team. My students are fascinated with the idea of me writing blog posts and editing flyers and videos for CYBR’s Instagram page. They often ask what’s my latest project for social media. Likewise, it’s hard to procrastinate on completing graduate school prerequisites when you have almost 200 7th graders who look up to you and know that you plan to pursue another degree soon. They watch everything I do, and that alone makes me want to do better.
I cannot be more proud of the fact that I chose to come back for a second year. Will Isabella still yearn for me to attend her quinceañera in 2019? Who knows. I’m just happy I was able to have a few more conversations with her, and spend another year with the rest of my students. If you’re considering serving another year, I challenge you to go ahead and apply!
*Names were changed to protect the identity of students.