By: Natalie Bograd
I’ve always wanted to know what it felt like to be a celebrity. To be followed around by flashing cameras and crowds screaming your name is something every child dreams of. However, I long ago left behind my dreams of fame. I no longer expect to win an Academy Award for Best Director or to become the poet laureate of the United States. I did, however, have a tiny taste of what widespread recognition and adoration might be like when I visited the elementary school where I served my corps year, on a recent trip to San Jose. When I stepped onto campus, the first thing I saw was a blur of grey fleece and brown hair headed straight for me. It was one of the most adorable now second-graders imaginable, running rapidly towards me for his usual hug. “Ms. Natalie,” he said, his brand new faux-hawk slightly mussed: “My birthday is going to be on May 4th again this year!” Similar reactions ensued as I made my way across campus to the playground.
When we leave City Year, it’s easy to wonder if we really made an impact on our students. Will they remember us? Will they think about the many things we taught them? Or are we ultimately just another adult passing through their lives, like a Charlie Brown adult going “wah wah wah” in their ears? The answer is our impact is immeasurable. I was greeted with tears and hugs not only by my former students but by kids I had barely spoken to. My afterschool class, once a wild and disrespectful bunch, was lined up perfectly, silently listening to their new Corps Member. Brian, who had taught me how to dance the “shuffle” last year, made sure that I demonstrated my skills in front of the entire class. My former PM told me that when my students got the Christmas card I sent them, three of my students started crying because they missed me so much.
I say this not to tout my own impact as a Corps Member, but to say that I am exactly like each and every Corps Member serving this year. Will all have the same impact. You will return and be greeted with cheers. Not because you’re some reality star or tabloid headline, but because you became someone special to a student that needed you. No award or honor will ever measure up.