First of all, I know I have neglected my blog since I moved to Milwaukee. I have written snippets here and there about things I’d like to reflect and write about, but I have never found the time to sit there and spend a few hours actually putting anything together. Actually, I think for one to realize that I haven’t blogged anything might be a favorable indicator to demonstrate how exceedingly busy my life has been lately. Any amount of time I do have to spare after ten to twelve hour long days, I want to spend letting my mind and body rest peacefully while using the least amount of energy as possible; but I still wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.
My world right now is a lot different than it was a year ago, my world these past five months has completely rocked and changed it from the world I used to know. Sometimes, more often than not, this world can be a lot to carry and comprehend on my shoulders. It has taken a lot of reflection, conversations and time to process everything I am witnessing and experiencing.
I should start with describing what my year of service is and looks like before I can more adequately explain why I can confidently and cheesily admit that I have been changing drastically as a person and would not be who I am today, and becoming, without City Year.
I decided to do a year of service as a senior in college, I studied Journalism with a focus in Public Relations and a minor in Nonprofit Management, with an interest to work with, organizations that cared about education, children’s rights, poverty or the environment. I hope I have the opportunity of working with all the social causes I care about and more. I heard about City Year from a recruiter in one of my classes, they pitched helping students who struggled a bit in school succeed, community involvement, service projects, and personal career development. I’ve been working with children, and I didn’t want to let go of that yet; I also wanted the experience of working inside a nonprofit before I took the position of a professional communicator of one.
I chose Milwaukee, Wisconsin because my best friend was moving there for grad school, and I wanted the experience of living elsewhere. Little did I know, that Milwaukee, Wisconsin had more to teach me than I had to offer it. This city has compelled me to recognize my privileges, practice humility and open my heart and mind more than I ever have before.
What do you think of when you think of Milwaukee? The great lakes? The segregation? The incarceration rates? Green Bay Packers? Cheese? The opportunities or lack there of? Dairy? Beer? Snow? If you were me, I didn’t think of anything; and I think that’s even more dangerous. Why didn’t I know anything about Milwaukee? Why didn’t I care to know until I found myself admist it all, why didn’t I bother until I met people from Milwaukee whom I work and serve alongside with, why didn’t I understand until I saw the problems and joys my children express to me every day, why didn’t I truly comprehend until I joined City Year?
The gap that stands between students and their potential.
At City Year, we believe education has the power to help every child reach his or her potential. However, in high-poverty communities there are external factors and obstacles students are faced with every day that can interfere with their ability to both get to school and be ready and able to learn.
When people ask me, what do you do? Oh, you’re a teacher assistant! You want to be a teacher.
I don’t know why it takes multiple explanations to clarify that I am a student’s assistant more than anything else. I am student’s tutor, coach, mentor, and friend. Is it difficult to juggle and balance that kind of complex relationship? That may be the hardest part of my service. But that’s what I do every day, I tutor a small group of kids in Math and ELA, help others who struggle with attendance, and help others achieve personal goals.On top of that, I spend every day simultaneously getting to know and work with eight other people I serve with at my school. Then, we spend Friday’s the whole lot of us from the eleven schools we service in and train together to become even better student assistants and civic leaders.
The path to becoming a big citizen, an idealistic term defined by one of City Year’s founders, Alan Khazei, is my largest take-away so far these five months into this year of service. Khezi has pioneered ways to empower citizens to make a difference and explored how social change could be achieved through Congress, popular movements, and motivated alliances of groups. I don’t think I’d take on the road to becoming a confident advocate about social issues I couldn’t have sincerely empathized with, had I not heard them from the personal hearts of those I serve with and students I serve for.
I am learning how to differentiate sympathy with empathy, gaining patience, practicing humility, listening, asking questions, how to hold productive conflicting and uncomfortable conversations and becoming more passionate about changing the world around me.
I never imagined I’d meet an organization full of people who were more idealistic than I, and it’s the most humbling life changing experience that I may go through.So when people ask me why I’m doing a year of service, or what is a year of service anyway? Well, it’s not longer just to become an effective Public Relations specialist. I am still heavily and most interested in social causes and the media, and how the two relate. But my truest answer is, a year of self-discovery in the role I will take in the movements of the world for those I’ve met, for those I haven’t, for my family, friends, myself, and most importantly, the children of today and the future.