By: Joe Tanner
Now that I have been serving as a City Year Corp member in Denver since July 31, I can say that it has been one of the best decisions of my life. City Year’s program Whole School, Whole Child focuses on student attendance, behavior, and coursework (the ABCs) and is what I believe is missing in most of our nation’s failing schools. We are working to improve on ABC’s because if we can help our students improve in all three areas; we believe that all students will be successful. One particular City Year value that resonates with me in this work is, “Belief in the Power of Young People”. This value is vital for City Year because I am serving as a mentor and near-peer to support students not only academically but emotionally as well. There are students in my school that are dealing with very adult issues and they just need someone to listen to them; and that’s what my team and I do.
I have recently started building a mentor relationship with one of my 8th graders; I will call him “A”. I remember seeing A at school the first day, he was a natural leader, and students were drawn to him. I have A in class for American History the last period of the day and on some days he’ll do his work, others he’ll neglect to pick up a pencil. However, I have seen the potential in A since day one.
One day I gave my classes a writing prompt about “someone who inspires them” and I was blown away by A’s writing. Just the other day, however, A was asked to leave class since he was not participating and I could see that he was upset about it. I followed him outside of the classroom where he went to his locker, got his backpack and hat, and was ready to leave. I stopped him and said, “A, let’s just walk around and talk for the rest of class.” And that’s what we did for the next forty-five minutes. I learned about A’s life, he learned about mine. I told him how much potential I saw in him and how I believed that he could do whatever he wanted if he put in the work. I know that this is only the beginning of building my relationship with A but I know it is something I will continue to work on throughout the year.
The reason I told that story is the whole reason why I chose City Year. City Year gives corps members a unique opportunity to build specials bonds with students for their success. I believe that students need City Year corps members to serve as positive role models and motivators because in many cases our students do not have anyone who believes in them and can see their potential. City Year has given me a year to serve as a mentor, tutor, and role model in my school and has empowered me in the belief that I can change the world one day at a time.