Halfway through the service year, 68 City Year AmeriCorps members gathered together for Mid-Year Summit Talks (MYS Talks). This three day conference, modeled after TED Talks, aimed to spread ideas that reflect on the first half of their service year and inspire a strong finish throughout the next four months.

Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti kicked off the conference with an invigorating and frank Q&A focused on the challenges and opportunities lying ahead for Duval County Public Schools, noting that although the road is long, City Year AmeriCorps members “represent the opportunity to move from the status quo.” 

That movement doesn’t happen by chance. MYS Talks focused on reconnecting AmeriCorps members with how to best serve students, reflect on service, develop as leaders and care for themselves as individuals. 

Across several sessions, they learned about policy, practice and improving student performance using data from their work with students. “Especially heading into testing season, we received good context for understanding how state and national policy decisions made outside of the school impact how things work inside the classroom,” said David Goins, AmeriCorps member serving at Jean Ribault High School.

They also heard from TED(x) Jacksonville presenter, Ted Powell, about the importance of taking control of our individual thoughts when our mind wanders into negative and fearful thinking. “We were talking about very emotional and important stuff for three days,” said Sammi Cummins of the Wells Fargo team serving at Edward H. White High School. 

A City Year is both challenging and incredibly important. As highlighted by Victoria Riley, AmeriCorps member of the Sea Best Team at Raines High School, the most important lesson taken away from MYS Talks is “That we [AmeriCorps members] are making gains. Even when it feels like we might not be.”


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