Advanced Training Academy: Reigniting Idealism

By: Matthew Nienas, corps member

Corps members Matthew Nienas and Ryan Fraser

It’s funny how we may not realize what we’re missing until a reminder comes along. This was true for me at City Year Denver’s Advanced Training Academy. I was so absorbed in my work at Lake Middle School that I thought the week of training was just pulling me from my job. But as the week progressed, I realized how much I missed being with everyone and how influential the power of idealism really is.

First Day: Mental Health Walking onto Viking Park on Tuesday morning was a relief in itself. The weather was nice, traffic was busy, and the entire Denver corps formed seven lines. We were right outside of North High School which is where many of my students from Lake Middle School will be going. It was nice to see where their next step will be after Continuation.

Corps members meet at Viking Park to powerfully perform Physical Training on Tuesday morning

Once we were inside, we took a step back as a corps and reestablished some rules. We had many good discussions and as a result my positive can-do attitude slowly started creeping back. Jeff Park, our Executive Director, went over some statistics on how well we have been doing in our schools. When Lake broke off into our group it was nice to see that 100% of Lake Middle School’s teachers felt we were making an impact on their classrooms. It was a nice pat-on-the back and made me feel appreciated.

Second Day: Emotional Health As corps members were coming in for day two, the restorative effects of day one were already noticeable. It was nice to regenerate friendships with corps members from other teams. There were two prominent activities today that really reached out to me.

The first, Cross the Line, asked the tough questions that allowed us to see one another in a new light. What was most impressive, however, was that the corps was able to be completely quiet for 30 minutes! I realized when I crossed for the question asking if we’ve ever taken care of a family member that I miss my little brother. It had me reflecting on the years back in Wisconsin when I helped raise Leo from age two to ten. He has a life-threatening disease and I credit much of who I am today to the impact he’s had on my heart.

Corps member John Wetenkamp serenades the audience to his favorite Erykah Badu song

The second activity, Silent Appreciation, had me smiling and laughing in my seat. The more taps I received on my shoulder for things like “idea man,” “great smile,” and “role model,” the bigger my self-esteem became. It also had me leaving the day feeling appreciated.

Third Day: Physical Health Now that I had more spirit, open-mindedness and positive can-do attitude, it was time to work on my body. It was exactly the amount of physical activity I’ve been craving for months. On this day of ATA, corps members were able to participate in yoga, circuit training, meditation or sharing ways to unwind in Denver.

Hula hooping was just one of the many fun physical activities corps members participated in

It was the perfect mix. Even though I still ache today (3 days later) physical activity, to me, was the icing on the cake. After lunch we even got to get back into our crazy teams and have a little light-hearted competition with the corps and staff. Everyone was smiling at the end of the day. My idealism has indeed been reignited and I am ready to once again take on the school.


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