Students and Parents "Travel the World" through Literacy Night at J.A. Fair High School

Students at J.A. Fair High learned about countries from around the world at "Passport to the 10th Grade" 

By City Year AmeriCorps Member Santosh Umesh
On Thursday, February 18th – after a month of planning and preparation – the City Year team at J.A. Fair High School hosted its annual freshmen math and literacy night, called “Passport to the 10th Grade”. The event was a resounding success, which brought students and parents together for an evening of educational games with a focus on cultures around the world. Highlighted countries included Morocco, India, Costa Rica, Mexico, Nigeria, Ireland, and Germany.

“It was really neat to see the different countries of the world and learn stuff about them,” said freshman attendee Tyler Okoye, “I’d heard about some of the countries, but I didn’t know anything about them. It was cool to learn about places that I knew so little about.” 

The festivities began with several guest speakers, including Assistant Principal Chris Johnson, who stressed the importance of finishing the academic year strong. After the speakers finished, the students and parents were directed to the cafeteria where they were met with carnival games and country trivia, as well as food and prizes. The games were based on math and literacy skills the students had learned in their classes and the 9th grade teachers offered extra credit to students who attended. Students had additional opportunities to win prizes including clothes, gift cards, and even a laptop computer.

Larissa McNeil, one of the City Year coordinators of the event said, “The initiative was a complete success. We had a fantastic turn out, which exceeded our expectations. It was the most student and parent engagement that I think I’ve seen at any City Year event.”

As a result of the unprecedented parent and student turn out, Assistant Principal Johnson asked the City Year team to hold the carnival again during school hours, as a means of test preparation. It is the perfect opportunity to bring more students around the world with City Year!  

Give a Year, Give More - Change the World

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More than half of City Year Little Rock's current staff members are alumni of AmeriCorps programs

“There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when it's convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses - only results.” - Ken Blanchard

By City Year Impact Manager Derrick Rainey
Some choose to only “give a year and change the world,” but there are some who decide that one year is not enough. Of the 20,000 City Year and one million AmeriCorps alumni – City Year Little Rock (CYLR) makes this reality true. Sixty percent of CYLR’s full-time staff are AmeriCorps and City Year alumni – this includes Vice-President and Executive Director Sarah Roberson, who served over ten years ago in San Jose and helped establish the Little Rock site.  

Commitment is what identifies AmeriCorps alumni who continue to serve their communities after their official “service year” has ended. This provides a great perspective and advantage towards leading AmeriCorps Members throughout their 10 months of national service, because these individuals have endured the long hours, witnessed first-hand the impact one can have on a community, and demonstrated their personal commitment to national service.

So why do they come back? The majority of the alumni staff members stated they wanted to help other AmeriCorps members have a successful year of service just as they had. Several staff now have the opportunity to work with students who were in elementary school when they were Corps Members – that provides a great deal of joy seeing their impact continue.

Although filled with nostalgia and fond memories of “old-school” service projects and uniforms, alumni recognize that City Year today is not the organization they remember – and therefore, seek to adjust to the new demands of service in schools and collaborate with colleagues and partners to improve systems and procedures towards meaningful impact. They embody PITW #7 – “Delight others, exceed expectations.”

As City Year continues to grow as a leader in educational intervention and policy, its members (AmeriCorps and staff) are dedicated to the cultivation of meaningful partnerships and lasting impact within the communities it serves. The alumni staff members continue to not only “give a year” but give so much more, carrying on the mantras of PITW #159 “This is hard, be strong” and  proclaiming #173 “I’m ready – choose me!”

AmeriCorps Member Spotlight: Danielle Curd

Danielle is a high school graduate from San Antonio, Texas. She currently serves on the Cloverdale Middle School Team.

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Why did you choose to join City Year Little Rock?
Going straight into college right after high school was not in the plan for me. I wanted more of a life experience.  Moving from Texas to Little Rock was exactly what I needed. Leaving home for the first time was liberating and surreal all at once. The community I am in now feels like home, as if I have been here all along!

What do you expect to get out of your year of service?
I ignited a passion for equality in education in myself. Growing as a person and finding your voice is an extraordinary joy, also knowing that there is no limit of good one can spread.

How has City Year affected you so far?
No words will suffice on how much City Year has and continues to affect my life. It has caused me to be more strong minded when it comes to what defines me and the work our team puts in.

What has been your favorite moment as an AmeriCorps member?
When I realized just how important the people I have crossed paths with are. All the memories my incredible Impact Manager, Team Leader, and Cloverdale team have given me have made this year an unforgettable one! My students continue to keep me grounded to what is important - something you cannot find just anywhere - for that I am truly lucky! 

Tell about a struggle you have faced/are facing as an AmeriCorps member.
For me, the struggles are more internal than anything else. The biggest struggle I have had is effectively balancing the line between putting all my focus into City Year goals, and wanting to do all I can to help every student I come across.

Give an example of how your service has had a positive impact.
This year has had a very positive impact on who I am. I cannot imagine leaving my service year and not carrying on all of the best aspects of this journey. 


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