by Abby Milonas, AmeriCorps Member serving on the McDonough Elementary School Team.


It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting kindergarten or are twenty-three years old with a bachelor’s degree; the first day of school is always a daunting experience. Stepping over the threshold of McDonough Elementary that breezy morning of September 5th was like stepping into a memory: a maze of unfamiliar hallways populated by people I did not know, and everywhere the scent of uncertainty. As I entered the school, however, I looked to my team, this wonderful little group of people who in just four weeks had gone from complete strangers to something closer to a second family, and I felt a sense of peace and self-confidence unlike any first day experience I’d ever had. 

Upon entering my classroom, I was bombarded by Harry Potter décor: stuffed figurines on the window sill, a Hogwarts crest hanging beside the door, an enormous framed poster on the back wall, and a job board entitled “house elf chores” with little socks denoting which students were given which jobs. My teacher randomly assigned students to different Hogwarts houses and they have opportunities to earn points for their house. Although the majority of my third graders have never read or watched Harry Potter, the theme invites a spirit of festivity and healthy competition into the classroom, and my teacher intends to use it to foster literacy among our students and get them excited about reading.

Despite the brutal heat which followed us into September, I did not find it all that difficult to keep up the “can-do attitude” which we put on during our morning readiness check. Being around the children, learning about and working with these brilliant young scholars, had a rejuvenating quality to it. By the second day of school, the awkward period of getting-to-know-you’s had been replaced by a vibrant, excitable new environment. My days became marked by endless cries of “Ms. Milonas! Ms. Milonas!”, and regardless of whether students needed help with their place values or wanted to show me a picture they’d drawn of their cat, I found myself filled with joy over any interaction I had with them. 

This is not to say that being a City Year has been a breeze. (As PITW #159 reminds us, this is hard! Be strong!) I often drag myself back to our team space at 3pm and flop down into a chair, every muscle just begging for a nice, long nap. Then the rest of my team arrives and I find myself suddenly rejuvenated, excited to celebrate the day’s successes and commiserate on the struggles together. 

As physically and emotionally challenging as being a City Year can be, the fulfillment of spirit that you get in return is worth it a million times over. My first days in the classroom have not been without difficulty, but with the support of my partner teacher, Impact Manager, and my fellow AmeriCorps members, I have learned to welcome each one as an opportunity for growth. What truly gives me the energy to embrace each day is the embers of potential that I see within each of my students, and I hope that through my service, I can stoke those embers into infernos of ambition and accomplishment. 


Interested in learning more about the AmeriCorps member experience with City Year? Check out our website!

City Year is accepting applications for the 2019-2020 academic year! To learn how to apply, click here.

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