City Year works with teachers and principals, ensuring that every student is given the opportunity to acquire the skills and mindsets needed to succeed. This past school year we expanded into two new schools in the Tulsa area. We are proud of the work our AmeriCorps members accomplished at each school; we are really proud of one of our students, Kevin*.
Kevin was a senior on the wrestling team and Maddie, a City Year Tulsa AmeriCorps member, helped with the team as needed. Maddie’s focus was on ninth graders but when the wrestling coach approached her and asked “I know you’re good with math, can you help one of my students with credit recovery for his first semester Algebra 1 class?” Credit recovery is providing a student with the opportunity to redo coursework or retake a course through alternate means and avoid failure, earning the academic credit. During first hour every day, Maddie worked with Kevin to complete and turn in all of his classwork. Once the work was turned in Maddie was told that an error had been made and Kevin needed to complete second semester Algebra 1; it seemed as if all their work was for nothing.
As they focused on the algebra work, Maddie checked in with the coach and student dean to ensure this was all that would be needed for Kevin to complete his high school requirements. It was then discovered that there were seven classes, in addition to the second semester Algebra 1 class, in which Kevin needed credit recovery. Eight classes. Eight weeks left of school. Kevin got frustrated and missed a week of school after finding this out. Maddie had already spent so much time with him and she was not going to give up on him. Even with all of his walls, she saw the progress that had been made, not the barriers that were in the way. She knew that if she didn’t persevere Kevin was not going to do the work. Kevin wouldn’t graduate.
“I can’t do it,” he said. Maddie was heartbroken to hear him admit this. He was a good student who sat in the back of the room, didn’t cause trouble or make a scene. She needed him to know that she wasn’t giving up on him. Every day that Kevin stayed home from school she called his mother and talked with his cousins in the hallway. “Please tell him he needs to come to school; please tell him I believe in him and together we can do it.” In the meantime, not only did he have eight courses of credit recovery, his grades in his current classes were dropping. Maddie persisted and Kevin came back to school. Maddie worked with Kevin during first hour; Sabiel and Codi worked with him; he stayed for after school tutoring. His teachers supported him and gave all of the make-up work he needed to finish for the times he was absent.
One day the principal asked Kevin, Maddie and other team members along with the dean and wrestling coach to come to her office. The thoughts running through Kevin’s head were not in his favor. “Eight classes in eight weeks. She’s going to tell me I’m a failure.” Instead, he heard “I believe that you will make it happen. I want you to graduate. Use City Year to help you; we all want you to succeed. I don’t want to see you in summer school. I believe in you.” Just the words he needed to hear. A large smile crossed his face as he left the principal’s office. This meeting and those words gave him just the confidence he needed. Kevin came to school every day, focused and spent as much time as he could getting the help he needed.
Kevin had so many things stacked against him - friends and cousins telling him he couldn’t do it, no home support to assist with the work. On Friday, May 12th Kevin turned in the last of his work for all of his classes. On Wednesday, May 17th Kevin, dressed in a cap and gown, walked across the stage as he heard his name over the sound system, and received his high school diploma. Sitting in the audience, leading the cheers, were young people dressed in red jackets. City Year Tulsa’s AmeriCorps members, some not even serving at his school, wanted him to know that they supported him. That he had an extended family celebrating this momentous occasion. After the ceremony, Kevin sought out Maddie hugged her and said “Thank you for believing in me. I appreciate that you pushed me. I didn’t think I would do it but I’m here because of you.” Kevin’s mother told her "I'm so happy! Thank you so much!"
Jacqueline Verner, the school's Secondary Clerk, shared with City Year Impact Manager Raynell Joseph, "I like that Kevin didn't give up. He trusted in the help from City Year. Had it not been for City Year I don't think he would have seen it through."
Maddie shares “I am SO proud of Kevin! I watched him struggle but I believed in him from day one and I am filled with joy that he believed in himself. I knew that if he could graduate, it would change his life.” “As much as he wanted to graduate,” she added “I needed him to graduate. I hope for great things for him.”
Kevin’s story doesn’t end here for his story is just beginning. The part of Kevin’s story you don’t know yet – because of Maddie and the belief that she had in him - Kevin applied to be an AmeriCorps member with City Year Tulsa. On July 24th, he will start his training to invest in and impact the lives of students like himself. “I want nothing but happiness for him,” Maddie said. A difference is being made, one ripple at a time.
*Name has been changed for student's privacy.