It seems likes throughout the year I kept telling myself, ‘Man, someone should have warned me about this’ or ‘I could have prepared myself better,’ but as I am typing it seems like all the important issues I was sure needed to be shared have gone out the window and my mind is yelling, ‘Tell them to buy coffee, and lots of it!’ Or if you are not into coffee, some caffeinated tea would do wonders.


I like lists, sometimes. Here are a few helpful tips to get you started on the right foot.

  1. Prepare yourself, but be willing to embrace the new! This service year will make you grow in so many areas. It might get hard at times, but you can do it! You have the support of your team, second years corps members, and team leaders who are always willing to lend an ear or experience. We rest upon the shoulders of previous Red Jackets.

  2. Coffee! Coffee! Or tea! Depending on bus routes, apartment/home location, or carpooling situations, most corps members start their days between 5:00 a.m. to 5:45 a.m. Personally, this was really difficult for me (NOT a morning person) and I had to find ways to make sure I was up and on time. The “I Can’t Wake Up” alarm app is a great one if you are a deep sleeper like myself (it also helped having a roommate in City Year!).

  3. Pencils! After a couple months or even weeks of being a corps member you will find yourself picking up the pencils that many students leave behind or eyeing the sales rack (see more on “sales” in #5!) hoping to find some pencils on sale. After last year, I have come to the conclusion that my students (9th graders) were allergic to pencils and some of them grew tolerant of their allergic reaction to pencils and were maybe able to keep them for one day. A lot of students will come to school unprepared and you can squash their, “I can’t do my work, because I don’t have a pencil,” objection by having some extras with you. I also liked putting labels on mine: “Don’t lose me, take me to Ms. G.”

  4. Lunch: You are a corps member, which means that unless you have a great savings account or additional income, you are not going to be able to afford the $8 lunch everyday. Pack your lunch the day before and bring snacks. Find someone in the corps that has a Sam’s Club or Costco membership and tag along with them-- it will make the grocery trip a bit more fun! (Or share with someone else! Check Livingsocial or Groupon for great deals on memberships.)

  5. Sales! I LOVE sales! I do! Moving to the other side of the country and living on a stipend REALLY made me love sales. And it’s something you can plan for: where I buy fruits and veggies based on what Kroger has on sale for the week or an after-the holiday sale (student incentives work, and Walmart has candy 50% off the day after holidays!). Livingsocial (recommended by a CY teammate) is an awesome place to find deals, as well as Groupon. And remember to help one another: my teammates and I would send each other messages when things would be on sale. No one knows the struggle more than your teammates.


More tips will probably come to mind, but guess what? You will all be here and you will have the opportunity to ask us your questions. For now, breathe, and be ready to wear Columbus on your shoulders because we are City Year Columbus and we serve to  #makebetterhappen.


Norma Garcia

Second Year Corps Member

Champion Middle School



Share This Page