Letter to the editor:
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Bobby Kennedy spoke these words at the University of Cape Town in South Africa nearly 49 years ago, and yet these same ideals are still at work through the work of an organization I’m proud to have been a part of myself here in the United States.
City Year is an AmeriCorps program that brings together young people, 17-24, to work at reducing the high-school dropout rate in underserved schools in 25 cities across the country. I am a student at Ohio State, but before becoming a Buckeye, I had the privilege of serving for one year with City Year in Cleveland. I tell people that doing City Year was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and although that phrase might sound trite, I can’t emphasize enough how grateful I am to have been a part of it. From the moving experiences with my students, to the benefits I have received as an alum of the program, City Year has helped me in countless ways.
Working with one student, Devonte, was a particularly defining experience for me. Devonte was a rambunctious, troublemaking 10th-grader who could, at the same time, be just as endearing and incredibly smart. It was obvious that Devonte was a very intelligent kid, yet he was failing every single one of his classes. We started working one-on-one to improve his grades, and after a few months, I started to see very slow baby steps of improvement. Then, one day, his English teacher told me that he was not only passing the class, but that he also had the highest grade. When I shared this news with Devonte, he was ecstatic! He did try hard to cover up that this news held even a little bit of weight with him, but it was very clear that it had sparked a tangible realization that he was capable of doing well in school and he was proud of his hard-earned success.
Seeing a student who shows every indication of dropping out of school turn his grades around is an unforgettable experience. In a small way, I was able to support Devonte as he realized his own potential and started making the changes needed to do well in school. As Kennedy said, a ripple of hope is sent out each time a change like this occurs and these ripples have the potential to become currents to bring about lasting change. Every person should have the opportunity to be one of those ripples, and this experience is possible for everyone in an organization like City Year.
For more information on what City Year is all about and how you can be a part of it yourself, please visit www.cityyear.org.
Second-year in education and Spanish
Alumna of City Year Cleveland