By Adrienne Poon, AmeriCorps member serving at Rogers Middle School 

“Why are you always happy?”

I swiveled away from the “parts of a story” worksheet I was helping another student with and looked toward the source of the voice. Steven* peered down at me, as I crouched beside his desk. He raised a single eyebrow, waiting for me to answer. 

Confused by his question, I didn’t know what to say.

He asked again. “Why are you ‘City Years’ always so happy in the morning? Don’t you all get tired or something? You probably wake up the entire neighborhood.”

“We’re always happy because we’re here in school with you. We’re delighted when we see you all coming toward us in the morning, especially when you high-five us back! Isn’t school great?!” I beamed my toothiest grin and gave an enthusiastic, albeit cheesy, thumbs-up gesture. 

Admittedly, what I said was borderline generic, and I almost regretted saying it. Reflecting upon the incident now, though, I am confident in my answer and the truth held within it. I treasure the times when I can chat with students over lunch about their favorite comics and how fluffy their six-year-old dog is. I revel in connecting over a mutual love for drawing and playing a particularly energetic round of Multiplication War during math class. 

I savor every 7:00 a.m. high-five and every smile we receive from our students. I enjoy watching them go from sleepy to energized and ready to learn; I live for the buzz of students preparing for class, the eventual crow of, “Wait, I understand. I can do this!” and the heartfelt “have a good night” exchanged at final dismissal. 

In these early weeks of the service year, I find more exhilaration through simple joys and am persevering through struggles. 

I truly am happy. 

Serving in school, supporting the students—that is what always makes me happy.

*Name changed

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