“A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. A man approached her and said, ‘Little girl, why are you doing this? You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!’ She bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, ‘Well, I made a difference to that one!’”
— (Segments) Adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley
Last year I served as an AmeriCorps Member with City Year in a 5th grade class. For me, coming to serve with City Year was about doing something that truly mattered. Before I started, I didn’t really know what that meant; but once I began working with my students, I learned a lot about myself and I grew in ways I am just now coming to understand. Whenever a student was frustrated or told me they couldn’t do it, I had to push myself to motivate them to give it another chance. I leaped right past my comfort zone to learn how to plan and organize lessons for my students, how to lead a class (which, for the record, is a lot harder than it looks), and how to problem solve. Most importantly, I learned how to step up and not only be there for my students but be what my students needed every day. Through all of this I grew confident in my position and I realized I had the power to do all of this and more.
When the work gets difficult and I question our ability to make a difference, I think of one of my 5th graders. He struggled with basic multiplication facts, was a couple grades behind in reading, and constantly doubted himself. I worked with him all year but I wasn’t sure if we were really getting anywhere. One day, my teammate told me he had spoken with my students’ mother who said my student had clearly become more motivated and invested in his work. She said that he would talk about me all the time and the drawing I had made for him was not crumpled up somewhere but hanging on his bedroom wall. I suddenly realized that just like the girl in the story, ‘I made a difference to that one.’ It was less about whether or not he knew multiplication facts and more about the irreplaceable bond we had forged together.
Now I have my own team of AmeriCorps Members whose incredible journeys are just beginning. They have only been in schools for a few weeks but are already forging lasting bonds with their students and their partner teachers. This Wednesday, we celebrate all that they will do and their commitment to service. We get to hold this celebration at the one and only California State Capitol Building. When I think about all the amazingly influential and important people who have come to the Capitol Building, all the developments and movements that happen there, it seems only fitting that our Opening Day will take place on its beautiful north steps. We are all a part of the powerful change and growth happening in the Sacramento Community. Our AmeriCorps Members are smart, creative, professional young leaders and Wednesday will officially kick off their year of service. Opening Day gives us all the chance to come together to commit to service because this work we do truly matters.
Jenessa Irvine, Team Leader
Click here to RSVP for City Year Sacramento’s Opening Day Celebration on October 1st, 2014 on the North Steps of the California State Capitol Building.