By Aaron Griffith, AmeriCorps Member, Serving at McDonough Elementary School 

All CYNH corps members have unique stories and experiences working with their students and teams here in Manchester. From heart-felt starfish stories to fun times had with their teams, everyone has something they could share at this midpoint time of our service and what goals they have for the months ahead. I recently interviewed two members of my team, first year corps member Sherry Leung and team leader Danielle Emmett, about their experience at McDonough during this academic year. 

At this point in the year, what are most proud of in your service so far?

Sherry Leung: I am proudest of the relationships that I have developed with my students.  I'm really proud that I've been able to capture their trust so that they feel comfortable approaching me with any problems that they might be having.  They understand not only that I am there to help them succeed in class but that I am genuinely interested in their overall well-being.

Danielle Emmett: I am most proud of my team and the way they have truly made this year their own through their service.  They have taken initiative on so many things in the school such as behavior, math and reading initiatives, things they are doing in their classroom, coming up with creative and engaging lesson plans.  Something I am most proud of them for are the relationships they have developed with our school's staff and students.  Coming into this year City Year had already established itself at McDonough and the teams that came before us had created a strong foundation for us to be standing on. This year our team utilized the foundation they had and continued to build on it creating their own relationships at McDonough that are genuine and have deepened the relationship we have with our school.  It has been a blessing to be able to watch each corps member build relationships with their students, to see them invest in their students and for their students to invest back.  I have been able to see and feel the trust developed between corps members and students and that is very special. 

What are you looking forward to or hoping to accomplish in the second half of the year?

SL: I am hoping that I can continue to further develop my students' self-confidence in approaching their academic work.  I've had a few instances of student "AHA!" moments and I look forward to seeing more. 

DE: I hope that by the end of the year I have been able to support each of my corps members in whatever way they needed and helped them to overcome something that challenged them.  I hope that I am able to provide the guidance and support needed, whatever it may be, for each corps member to say that they have found value in their service and are walking away happy with what they have given and accomplished. 

What do you like about McDonough –both the school and the team? What makes the McDonough team unique at CYNH

SL: I think what makes the McDonough team stand out in CYNH is the sense of community there is.  I know that if I am in need of help or am looking for support, I can find it from the members of my team.  I honestly do feel that I have made lifelong friends with some of my team members. That feeling of community also extends into the school.  It was incredible to have members from the school's PTA join us for our community meeting in December.  Additionally, the staff and faculty there are extremely supportive of what we do as an organization and are always thanking us.

DE: I think I find inspiration in different people every day, but something that consistently inspires me every day are our students.  They are some of the most amazing people and even though I am not directly working with them this year I know that I am indirectly supporting them.  That being said, I look forward to seeing my team and the work they are doing every day, because seeing them find joy in service inspires me as well.

Sherry, can you share a “Starfish Story” from your experience thus far?

SL: My starfish story has to do with a student in my 50 Acts group.  My teacher, Mrs. Canning, challenged the class to a month challenge of having all students in the class finish their homework.  However, one day after she made the announcement, we had 3 students forget to bring in their homework.  Therefore, Mrs. Canning proposed to the class that she would either restart the challenge for the whole class or that the prize of a pizza party would only benefit those who finished all their homework.  When everyone voted to have the pizza party for those who finish all their homework that month, my 50 Acts student began to tear up in the middle of the discussion. He hesitantly raised his hand and when called upon, said, "Mrs. Canning, I think everyone deserves a second chance.  We all make mistakes, I would feel really guilty if I could have pizza but no one else in the class could.  I would hope that one day if I made a mistake, you would all forgive me just like I would help you make a better choice next time." 

Both Danielle and Sherry are pivotal members to the McDonough team. As a team leader, Danielle provides our team constant loving support and I believe she is the driving force of the compassion and care she reflected on. Sherry, or “Ms. L” as her third graders call her, brings determined passion, collaborative creativity, and we-can-get-it-done attitude that help to inspire and unite the team. They both dedicate their service to truly to trying to make better happen.

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