By: Chelsea Montes de Oca
Me (far left) with my female teammates at Lake Middle School
It was supposed to be another Friday City Year meeting. I dragged myself into the conference room with my coffee in hand and greeted my fellow social media team members. To warm up, each person was asked to share the biggest risk they had ever taken. I began to think about what mine would be. Was it falling in love? No. Was it swimming with sharks? No. Was it running that police grade obstacle course that one time without stretching first? Well…maybe. Then I thought back to before I started City Year and the trail of events that got me all the way to this meeting. I remembered how excited I was to get my acceptance call. I remembered how heartbroken I was to leave all my friends and family. I remembered how petrified I was to pack only what would fit in my car and drive cross country from Florida to Colorado. Most of all, I remembered how lonely I initially felt upon arriving to Denver. Joining City Year—that was my biggest risk.
It was a risk because I have never had a job like this before. In fact, my past experience was in food service and photography. I certainly had never worked in a 6th grade English class. I felt my inexperience with children would be a downfall. However, my students have never seen me as inexperienced. Somehow my being a novice translated into authenticity. My students are learning many things as they go and I am learning right alongside them. They know I care and as a result I have become a fast confidant for them. The relationships I have built provide essential daily victories. One day, as a part of a compliment activity I received a note exclaiming, “You are fun and outgoing. I admire you.” Recently, my most notoriously withdrawn student raised his hand to almost every question asked in class. One of my focus list students not only wants to do good work but always seeks me out to show me how well he did. Every day, I encounter a moment that makes me appreciate the risk I took. With the end of the first half of the year coming to a close, there is still so much more to be done. But I am confident the foundation I have built will lead me to a successful second half of the year.
The second part to this warm up was for everyone to state the happiest they have ever been. Thoughts circulated in my head as I pondered what it meant for me to be truly happy. As my turn approached, I found my answer: the present. The happiest I have ever been was realizing that the biggest risk I’ve ever taken was also the best decision I’ve ever made.