Stories collected by Addy Smith, AmeriCorps member, Mendez High School

The students we work with change our lives. They teach us about patience, persistence, resilience and much more. We serve for them, to enrich their lives as much as they do ours. Here are a couple of stories about students who have had a significant impact on members of the Mendez High School team.

From AmeriCorps member Andrew Marsee: At the beginning of the year, Jorge rarely participated in math class. He sat at his desk and stared at the work or perhaps copied from a neighbor after they had finished the assigned problem. This led to the teacher calling on him to answer questions all the time in an attempt to divert Jorge's attention back to the lesson. And when I asked Jorge why he wasn't working on the classwork, he would say things like he hated math or that he was terrible at math and couldn't do it. I provided encouragement by saying that anybody could be good at math with a little practice. I also began to work with him more frequently and made him part of my math focus list. And then, after a couple weeks of inviting him every day to stay after school for Extended Learning Time (ELT), he began showing up for that as well. Little by little he started to improve his algebra skills and exhibited more and more confidence in his abilities. Now, he is a model citizen in Algebra class. He always works diligently on any problem assigned during class and he is also very eager to ask for help when he gets stuck on a problem. He'll raise his hand and call me over, or join me at a different table if I am working with a different set of students. And to top it off, now he volunteers to answer every question that the teacher poses. It's gotten to the point that the teacher has to tell Jorge to let other people have a chance to answer questions. There's been a marked improvement in just a few short months.

From AmeriCorps member Mari Banuelos: Celest is the kind of student who works hard and tries her best. Despite her work ethic, she struggled in math. She started off the school year with an F in her math class. Although at first she was resistant to coming in after school for ELT, eventually she was coming in every day. Math often left her feeling frustrated and stressed, however, her persistence never wavered. In the end, all her hard work and perseverance was worth it when she finally earned that C. It's students like Celest that inspire this work and make it all the more meaningful.

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