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Meet AmeriCorps member Julia Mattingly! She proudly serves at Arthur Ashe Charter School where she works all day, every day to build great relationships with students. She reflects on one of those special relationships.

City Year New Orleans AmeriCorps member Julia Mattingly in her City Year Red Jacket

One week into the school year, there were several students who had yet to show up to school. My lead teacher and I started wondering where these students were and why they weren’t at school. At the start of the second week of school, Diamond entered our classroom – a short, sassy, smart, dance-loving 5 year-old.


The first day she was at school, it was evident Diamond didn’t want to be there. She rolled her eyes in class and refused to participate in any activities. Despite all of this, I couldn’t help but gravitate toward her.


Every day I would give her the biggest hug and say, “I’m so glad you’re here today, Diamond.”


Every day she would look up at me and say, “Ms. Mattingly, you’re so silly. How long till I get to go home?”


One day, she stopped asking how many hours until the end of the day.

Every afternoon I would pull her aside and say, “Will I see you tomorrow?”

“No. Mama said I could stay home tomorrow.”


Sometimes it was true and I wouldn’t see her the next day; but eventually she stopped saying that too.

Now, two months into the school year Diamond comes to school every day and is actively engaged in lessons. Every day I still give her a big hug and say, “I am so glad you’re here today.” At the end of the day, Diamond comes up to me and asks if she can stay at school with me.

So far, my year of service has taught me that sometimes the biggest impacts can be accomplished through the smallest influences, like a hug or a smile. City Year allows me to be that influence for my first graders, like Diamond, every single day; everyone deserves to be known, valued, and loved.  

*Student names have been changed in order to protect the privacy of students.

Julia Mattingly with her City Year teammates in front of Arthur Ashe Charter School.


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