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Every Student Counts, Everyday

May 1, 2012

By Maggie Mahoney, Corps Member Proudly Serving at ReNew Accelerated High School

A year ago I was in the process of graduating college. I was pulling my last all-nighters in the library, finishing my senior thesis, and power cleaning my college house for my landlord’s final inspection. I told my friends in Portland, “Don’t worry, it’s just a year, I’ll be back soon!”

Ms. Mahoney Working With a Student

I had a plan. I was putting my money where my mouth was and my ideals of social justice to work outside of academia. I wanted to be an active example and a contributing part of the “national service movement.” Now, after 10 (one adjective can’t possibly describe it) months of service as City Year New Orleans Corps Member, I’m re-upping for a second year of commitment, to the confusion and disbelief of many of my friends, family, and even myself.

As a young college graduate with a decent resume and plenty of creativity, I have options. I could get a salary job, apply for fellowships, start graduate school, travel, or enjoy a lucrative Bourbon Street bartending gig. I’ve been asking myself a lot lately, why did I choose this…again? Do I enjoy working myself ragged on a weekly basis, pouring my heart into tutoring students who might not make it to the test, and combating to replace a mountain of apathy with an ethos of education and civics? Is this not, by definition, insanity? But, the moment I begin to question my decision, I am faced with the completely opposing idea of, how could I not be doing this for another year?

Serving as a City Year Corps Member has been the first responsibility I’ve had where I don’t wake up in the morning concocting a unique but believable excuse to get out of coming in. I wake up with purpose, knowing that my team, and students are relying on me, and that I can make a difference. I think  “This day might be the most important day of my service–the make it or break it day in one of our students’ educations.  I can’t miss it!”  As we say on my team, “Every student counts, everyday.”

This is how I feel about City Year New Orleans as an organization. As a part of the inaugural corps I’ve experienced the growth of a young City Year site. I’ve seen my fellow corps members and our leadership accomplish amazing feats from handling student crisis to planning and implementing outstanding school programming and citywide service projects. As a corps we put on the best versions of ourselves every morning, endure long and frustrating days, and even volunteer on the weekend, like it’s no big deal, just part of the job.

I’ve watched in awe at my teammates’ relentless and successful efforts to break through to students who have never liked Math or English (or anyone who has tried to help them) before this year. I’ve witnessed our leadership, our senior corps, build relationships with school administrations and organizations across the city who are excited about our work, and who can’t wait to work with us again. I am joining senior corps because I don’t think I could stand not seeing firsthand what City Year New Orleans will do in the New Orleans community in 2012-2013, and the amazing things I will be able to accomplish as a part of it.

Leading a team as a Senior Corps member, I want to ensure that future corps members’ year of service is the most rewarding year of their lives, thus far. This is BIG work, but I’ve experienced the powerful impact each individual, and a strong team, can make. Corps members are the life-blood of City Year. I hope to give the new corps the support and resources they need to be the best tutors, mentors, and role models possible for students who desperately need it. This coming year, I will strive to harness even more of that youthful power of idealism that will keep City Year, and the City of New Orleans, moving forward.

Sorry Portland, I’m going to be a bit late.

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