Gave a Year, Changed the World

Everyday Musings, Inspiration

A refelction on my year of service… This Blog Does Not Represent the Ideals of City Year 

City Year taught me to keep dreaming. Things may go wrong and fall apart, frustrations may run high, and plans may change. But in the end, as long as you don’t give up, everything works out in the end- often times far better than you could have imagined.

Four hundred thirty-two thousand minutes. Fifteen hours of ABC coaching per twelve or more focus list student. Seventeen hundred documented community service hours. That’s how you measure 10 months of service.

Spirit break after a powerful round of PT, and reading the daily briefing. After a while City Year culture became a way of life.

It encompasses data, dosage, tracking, khakis, teamwork, red layers, early starts, jolliness and power greeting. Its cover also reveals late evenings, frustrations, elevator speeches, Leadership and Development, service projects, stipends, LACY, tutoring, mentoring, and role modeling. Service beseeched us to answer Gandhi’s call to be the change we wish to see in the world, and Martin Luther Kings Jr.’s challenge to be great, because we could serve. Service also stirred our own devotions to the education cause- a devotion we belted loud and proud in our I Serve statements. Now that graduation has come to turn that signal light that has so long been green to red, we can take our well-deserved break and find comfort in knowing We Gave a Year and Changed to World.

Gave a year, changed the world. Such a broad statement, that you don’t realize the power of until it is your testimony to give. Did we bring world peace, stop world hunger, and cure the world’s lethal diseases? Unfortunately, no. What we did do was bring hope to a future generation- a generation that was discouraged and loaded with despair while falling through the systems cracks.

What we undertook was not an easy feat to conquer. Midyear I, like many others, reached a slump. Apathetic teachers and students, a failing school district, and no sense of change on the horizon had become a giant weight that tugged me to the ground and told me to give up. At ATA I wrote myself a note. “If you don’t change them all its okay. Find that one student that you can at least plant a seed into that the future can continuously water. It will one day blossom and bear fruits that envelop the ideals you have grounded them in.”

My mind went back to Sarah, a torn twelve-year-old tortured by tough circumstances. In our first encounter, she hastened into the classroom, rested her head onto her desk and sobbed into her adolescent arms. I kneeled at her side, gently inquiring what was wrong. Despite my concern, I received no response. She wouldn’t let me help, and remained hidden in a shell as a dark presence engulfed by her surroundings. To say Sarah needed help was an understatement. She had a 40 grade point average in class, and slept any chance she could. Her cause was too great for my focus list, but I vowed to get to know her. I had made a promise, and I couldn’t let Sarah down.

This note and memory together became my ammunition to trudge forward.

Things may not have the planned reaction, but every effort is worth it- if only for the laughs.

It turned out that Sarah simply wanted someone to show interest in her world, and we bonded through music. Eventually we even started a conversation journal, so she could talk to me whenever she needed. She told me she wanted to be the “A “student I told her repeatedly she could be. I challenged her not to let these be just words, but to show us her capabilities. Slowly, she made progress. Yet, blinded by the mission, I didn’t see my impact until it was almost too late. On our last day of school service, Sarah wrote me a note, “You have been so sweet and caring, and I don’t really know what I would do without you.” Later a man I hadn’t met walked up to me and thanked me for all my work, saying I had made a change in his daughter and he can tell how much I mean to her. It was Sarah’s father.

The scene was surreal. That weight I spoke of before, the one that almost sunk all my ambitions, was finally lifted. I had succeeded in my mission.

My student’s depiction of his world in 10 years.

That’s just one student, you may say. How does that change the world? I realized that there were more than 2,000 others of me across the world with Sarah’s, breathing new life into small worn bodies, telling them they are worthwhile and encouraging dreams. These students are now on track for graduation and will one day be future doctors, lawyers, artists, musicians, service men/women, and leaders. They will also bring positive change into the world.  All because we believed in them.

City year was just our start, our foundation for the great things we want to do. It was our vehicle that took us through the gates into the heart of the issue, giving us inside looks on what we are up against. And finally it was a test of her strength, and a way to know we have the gumption to succeed. We all came into City Year for different reasons, at different stages of our lives and with different personal goals. Our common ground was that we wanted to make a difference. If we embrace this experience and continue with our passion, this world will forever be a better place.


Changing the world one student at a time
Idealism to guide the way
Tutoring and mentoring everyday
Yourselves unselfishly you give

Years from now you will look back and say
Ever Effort was not in vain
All because a starfish you saved
Rejoice in they difference you’ve made!

City Year: Breaking Chains of Oppression and Saving Lives!

City Year San Antonio 2011-2012 Corps

Read more about my experience:

The first half of my service year

My Starfish Story

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