Bree Serna is an AmeriCorps Team Leader serving on the Vera R. Campbell Foundation Team at Hollenbeck Middle School in Boyle Heights. Bree is a Pitzer College alum and returns to Hollenbeck for a second year of service with City Year Los Angeles. Below she shares her Starfish Story, and part of the reason why she serves. 

Last year I worked with a seventh grade student named Beatrice who was strong-willed, opinionated and unfortunately, failing many of her classes.

One day in English class she was asked to read out loud to the class. She stood up and screamed, “I hate reading out loud! You can’t make me do it!”
After class I walked with Beatrice to figure out why she was so upset.  She stopped me and said, “Miss, I hate reading out loud. I’m stupid. I’m never gonna get it. I gave up in the third grade!”

Can you imagine? The third grade. 

In this moment I knew why I served. I had to do for Beatrice what my parents had done for me. I serve as a guiding light and support to get her on track academically, and to help her believe in herself again. When we started tutoring sessions, Beatrice spent most of our time together trying to convince me why she could not, and should not, attempt her work.

After one of our sessions I remember telling her, “You know if you used half the energy you spend every day arguing with me, on your school work. You could make the honor roll tomorrow…and maybe even a pretty good lawyer one day.”

Working with Beatrice was never easy. She often caused me to question my abilities…she also pushed me to grow in more ways than I could have imagined.

One day Beatrice came to me with some big news, “MISS, MISS, guess what! I got Student of the Week. See miss, I told you I could do it.”

Beatrice went from receiving negative calls home and doubting herself to being recognized as a positive role model in the classroom.

Her failing grades turned into A’s and B’s. Most importantly, I no longer had to convince Beatrice of how great she was. She knew.

I am so incredibly proud to serve students like Beatrice every day. What's more, I am only one of 309 idealistic, well-trained corps members across Los Angeles making a difference in students’ lives. 

My City Year has allowed me to witness the moment when a child chooses to follow their dreams instead of their doubts and I have been inspired to do the same by becoming a teacher after I complete my year of service.

I am excited to continue making a difference in the lives of students this year and for years to come.

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