By Yessica Garcia, AmeriCorps Member, Harvard Pilgrim and Riverstone Co-Sponsored Team,
Serving at Beech Street Elementary School 

Self-awareness is the knowledge or awareness of your own personality or character. When City Year first introduced the 50 Acts program, I did not know what to expect or how I was supposed to execute the sessions. The message that I took away from a 50 Acts of Greatness training was that as a corps member I was expected to eat lunch with students and help them build a toolbox of growth and development skills. In addition to the skills that the students gain they are highly encouraged to perform acts of greatness that benefit their peers, family, and community. Most importantly it provides them with the foundation to grow.

At the beginning of the school year one student caught my attention. He is the type of student that doesn’t want to participate in anything the teacher does with the class as a whole. Every time I tried building a relationship with him he would put up a wall and shut me out. When I was told that this student would be joining my 50 Acts group, I knew that I had a lot of work ahead of me. More often than not this student would be resistant to activities I had planned for the session. I then started to leave him positive notes on his desk every Monday morning that said, “I hope you had a wonderful weekend,” or “Let’s have positive week,” and “Keep up the hard work.” I would acknowledge and praise the small victories, and every now and then I would write down fun facts that would keep him engaged. Little by little he started becoming an active participant during our 50 Acts sessions.

During break when I received a Christmas themed card from every student in my class, his was a picture of a rocket on the cover of the card, this is when I realized a major change in him. His message read, “Miss Garcia I hope you have a good vacation and I hope you really like this card because I worked very hard on it. I know that many times I look like I am mad but thank you for always asking me if you could help.” His level of self-awareness impressed me when he acknowledged that he oftentimes looks mad. He also acknowledged the efforts I have made to try to help him. Although there is still room for improvement, his growth from the beginning of the year to now is admirable. There was another instance in which he approached a situation in a very negative way, but after he had time to think about it he apologized for his actions. He was able to reflect and own up to his mistakes.

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