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March 13, 2012

Photo by Laura Slotkoff

By Laura Slotkoff, Corps Member Proudly Serving at Reed Elementary School

After spending the past year immersed in an elementary school, I was excited and a bit nervous to spend my day surrounded by high schoolers. We were given the opportunity to shadow corps members at the two other schools City Year New Orleans operates in: Renew Accelerated High School and Reed High School. I was fascinated by the change in atmosphere and the way the City Year role is molded to accommodate the needs of each school. For example, at Renew, the corps members stay with one teacher for the whole day while the students rotate, instead of moving with a specific group of students as happens at Reed Elementary.

I am used to working with young kids, but it was a new experience for me to be surrounded by high schoolers. They weren’t really that different, just as rambunctious and creative in avoiding their school work, but they were also young adults whose futures don’t seem quite so abstract and far away. I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss with them some of their ambitions. They were curious about me as well, this new person who dresses just like their trusted City Years (“They’re multiplying!”) One of the fourth graders in my class told me, “You’re going to Reed High? My sister goes there! She loves City Year.” So I sought her out and told her how hard her little sister works in class and how much she talks about and looks up to her. I got a noncommittal smile in return, but from the look in her eye I know she was surprised and happy to hear it.

Their class work was tougher than my fourth graders’ of course, but also more developed. I had a great time assisting a student with hypothetically planning a science experiment to determine how marble headstones weather over time. Taking it a step farther, the boy decided the headstone must be in New Orleans, and that hurricanes as well as the land being below sea level would be major factors. After we spent a half hour on this, with him writing a whole paper while we laughed and played with ideas, the corps member I was shadowing told me, “You must be the *Rashawn-whisperer. He rarely sits still long enough to do his work!”

In the beginning of the year, we did not choose which school we were to work in. I’m grateful for having had this opportunity to walk in other corps member’s shoes, shoes which very easily could have been my own.

*Name has been changed.

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