Today's blog is written by Alise Russell, an AmeriCorps Member serving on the team at the Young Women's Leadership Academy (YWLA) at Eugene Butler Middle School. Alise shares reflections on her year of service and the impact that her students, teachers and staff have had on her experience. Pictured below is Alise with the YWLA Principal Williams (left) and her partner teacher Ms. Knolls (right). 

Alise with Principal Williams and partner teacher Ms. Knolls

At the end of my City Year, I hope my students will have benefited from my assistance during this academic school year. I hope that I was able to influence them to be respectful, strong and empowered young ladies. I hope that through tutoring and mentoring, I was able to effectively guide them towards reaching their potential. I hope that I have made a long-lasting impression that will help them throughout all aspects of life.

The best aspect of City Year goes beyond the tutoring but having the opportunity to establish comfortable and trusting relationships. During this year I have met some of the most entertaining, smart, and beautiful middle school girls. Being a part of a school that allowed me to show and express my femininity while being a leader made the process of building strong, reliable relationships with the students effortless. The standards that my Principal and Assistant Principal set, uphold, and demonstrate allow my girls to look towards them as role models, while also serving as role models for me. We desire to follow in their footsteps and can appreciate their poise and strength as women shining brightly in their careers.

I am pleased with the strides that my students have made this academic year: increasing their reading levels as well as their determination to succeed. Before embarking on this journey I was apprehensive about what types of experiences this year would hold. I was not sure if my presence would be beneficial, whether I would be deemed effective and efficient. At the start of the year as I began to learn the personalities and behaviors of my students, I realized that I did not have to do much to earn their acceptance, sometimes a piece of candy was enough. But once the candy ran out, it was time to get to the real work of building relationships and coaching and supporting my students.

The tutoring aspects of being a City Year AmeriCorps Member were some of the most frustrating times I had this year, they certainly required the most patience. During small group lessons, students joked around, had off-task conversations, and there were multiple dabs. However, during tutoring, I was able to see the determination that my students possess. The tears and the attitudes were steps along the way as my students gained new skills and were able to master their grade level standards.

One of the best aspects of my service year has been working with my partner teacher Mrs. Knoll. “Knollie” set the stage for me to be able to show my care and concern for our students. From the beginning of the school year, the focus in our classroom has always been to make our girls want to strive for greatness in school as well as in life. To have a partner teacher who not only moves children academically in their grade but also pushes them to consider higher education was the icing on the cake.

This year with my students has been one to remember. I will never forget my students, and I hope my students won't forget me and the progress we made together. I hope that my students are able to take everything that we have learned and achieved this year with them forever and to keep striving for their best.


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