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Our City Year AmeriCorps members make a difference in students' lives! Kathleen McShane proudly serves at Langston Hughes Academy. She talks about one special student and the relationship they share.


Derek has always been a student with a uniquely huge personality. When he walked into class on the first day of school, I noticed him right away. His dreads fanned across his face, covering his eyes, and he furrowed his eyebrows as if saying, “I don’t want to be here.” I was immediately concerned about his attitude and hoped to help him feel more comfortable in the classroom.


I reminded myself that my service year is about every student in my school and community, and how I can best serve them. Once I introduced myself and showed an interest in him, Derek opened up to me. I learned that he loved the Lion King, that he enjoyed it when people read to him, and that he had a beautiful imagination. I often paused our tutoring sessions to listen to his stories—and when I did, his face lit up.


Working with him one-on-one was challenging, but it was also rewarding and fulfilling. He learned to blend consonant sounds, write his first letters, and diligently complete independent computer work within the first month! Derek is meeting his academic goals and has impressed everyone with his behavior and willingness to learn.


Like every child, Derek still has some days where he has trouble following directions, but now, all he needs is a little redirection, and he’s back on track. He continues to amaze me every single day—he’s become more independent throughout the year and more of a leader. He’s taught me to be more understanding of others, to celebrate small victories, and to forgive. I know I’ll carry these moments with him with me for the rest of my life.


The CSX Team at Langston Hughes Academy in their City Year red jackets

Kathleen with her teammates on the CSX team at Langston Hughes Academy.

*All names are changed to protect student privacy.

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