We Can Do It

cat out of bed

Question: Am I the only one ready to dip out on City Year? 10 months didn’t seem like much as I was signing the papers in the beginning– But ever since we’ve returned from break, I’ve been ready to drop my red gear off at the office and throw up the deuces.

I’m not sure what it is, but it is becoming extremely difficult for me to get out of bed each morning, much less have energy to do boots and shoes (with a smile on my face and a heart full of grace). You know it’s bad when corps members from other schools are texting you to make sure that you’re up and ready to serve (shout out to Marvin and Mariah for that).

tired cat

I’ve been told that some corps members don’t return after the holiday break and I can truly see why. The hours are long, leaving you with not much energy (and daylight savings doesn’t help). Most of the time you feel like you’re hitting your head against a brick wall, not only with students and failing grades, but with teachers, administration, and policies (you’d think this would change after five months, but nope). So much is asked of you, and you really begin questioning yourself, your abilities, and your drive. Most of all, you ask why you decided to give a year to serve in a school.

I believe that my perspective is different from other corps members because I’m slated to start Teach For America in June. I have been feeling discouraged and second guessing my ability to change lives and make a difference through education based on my City Year struggles. I only have a few months left to put a dent in goals that I have for myself, my students, and the school.


Last year, when I accepted offers from both TFA and CY, I just knew the next three years of my life would be set… But now I catch myself thinking about a change. Last week I went on about four different walk-and-talks with teachers and administrators just to talk about where I am and where I want to be. One thing I can say is that I have a great support system with the staff at my school. They allow me to come in their classroom to go in and let have. They deal with what I deal with on a daily basis and face what I will face in Mississippi with Teach For America.

The other day, I told one of my students how I was feeling and he told me that he would’ve dropped out if I hadn’t been there to motivate him. A senior came up to me in the hall today and asked me to help her study for her ACT test. I’m reminded why I’m at Mifflin and the importance of what I do and my drive to do it. I’m there to inspire, but there are times when I need inspiration too. I’m not one to just give up on anything, but man I’ve been feeling it lately. I know that we are the most consistent people in most of our students’ lives and we will only let them down if we leave unexpectedly. These next five months will truly be a challenge for me to get through, but my students are my inspiration.

— Virginia Ivey, first year corps member of the Chase Team at Mifflin High School


Life in a Week: Ashley Dzurnak


Monday mornings can be a struggle for everyone, so we decided to pump up our morning greeting with some new cheers.  Even though most students act too cool to join in, I heard a few students singing good morning as I walked to class.  During first block, I noticed one of my focus list students was missing.  I was able to slip out of class for a minute and make a phone call home.  After speaking to her mother, I learned that my student was sick and would probably be absent the next few days.  I know missing class will make it difficult for this student to stay on track, so I will start making some lesson plans to help catch her up when she returns.

Today, our school hosted a blood drive through the American Red Cross.  After learning about past struggles at LMSA with blood drives, I took on the role of blood drive coordinator.  Students, teachers, corps members and community members all donated side by side – Ubuntu.  Students earned volunteer hours and learned about the blood donation process. After encouraging first-time donors all day, I decided to donate for my first time as well. We all agreed, it was a successful event and we are looking forward to hosting another drive at LMSA!

Every Wednesday during planning period, the Diplomas Now team gets together for an EWI (Early Warning Indicator) meeting.  The team consists of teachers, City Year, Communities in Schools and our school transformation facilitator.  During these meetings, we discuss a small group of students who are struggling with attendance, behavior and course performance and collaborate to best support the students to get them back on track. PITW #36: Learn how to get diverse input for designs and decisions. I shared some successes a student had with me during a pull out session.

Thursdays are some of my favorite days because I get to each lunch with some of my most difficult, yet charming, students.  We have been running 50 Acts of Leadership during lunch, City Year’s behavior coaching program that helps students develop as leaders.  On this Thursday, we talked about different types of communication, as well as conflict resolution.  Even though these students still have a long way to go, I am proud of their accomplishments so far!

On Fridays we spend our mornings in the school and afternoons at the office for training and professional development.  This Friday, we had the opportunity to mock interview with employers from the Columbus area.  I am so thankful that City Year invests time and energy into helping grow the corps as professionals and giving us amazing networking opportunities.

— Ashley Dzurnak, Team Leader of the ATT Team at Linden-McKinley STEM Academy


This time of the year is my favorite. In the hustle of our day to day here at City Year, it’s our moment to take a step back and remember what we have to be thankful for. For many of us and for me in specific, I can get lost in the weeds with our day to day responsibilities in CY and forget to take the time to reflect and see all the things I have to be thankful for. I have so many things in my life to be thankful for; my health, my friends and family, my second year of service with City Year, my team, my fellow TLs, my students, the teachers I get to collaborate with each day, food, shelter, clean water. When I really step back to look at my life I realize that I have so much to be thankful for. I hope that all of you this season, can take a step back, and reflect on everything that is beautiful in your life.

–Zandra Casto Team Leader at Mifflin Middle School

Real Talk With Miss Christine

By: Christine Olding

A few weeks ago I started doing this lunch group on Thursdays with six, 6th grade girls. It was supposed to be a chance for them to talk about a variety of topics that they didn’t feel comfortable talking about with anyone else (health issues to boyfriends and everything in between). I was unsure exactly how it would go over because let’s just say I was not the favorite person among the 6th grade girls.

When I first started this experience I was known by many of the students as the “mean” one due to my strict disciplinarian structure. However, in the past few months I have begun to develop relationships with these girls in ways I, honestly, never thought imaginable. I get hugs and jokes on a daily basis and am constantly asked questions about my love life (something I find pretty hysterical). So, when I was asked to do this group, I was excited and nervous on what exactly would happen given our rocky road.

The group is set up like this: they go grab their lunch and come to a classroom where I am awaiting their arrival. During our first meeting we came up with 10 topics that would be discussed. Each week we talk about a different topic. I present the topic of the week and open the floor each time stating that it is a safe space and whatever is said between these walls will never leave these walls. I try to answer their questions to the best of my ability and hope for the best.

I was amazed by the girls willingness to share and ask questions that I knew were hard for them to discuss. They are 100% open to what I have to say and what each other have to say. It is my chance to show them a different perspective on the issues that plague them. It is my chance to say” hey, I remember being in the 6th grade and I remember how much it sucked at times. So, here are some things to help you get through it.” Each week, I make a point to let them know that each of them is important, beautiful, smart and loved. (Something I know that they rarely hear). It is my hope that they will truly listen to those words and believe them because all I want for them is to believe in themselves and each other, like how I believe in each one of them.

AmeriCorps Spotlight, Children’s Hunger Alliance

By Christine Olding

In honor of AmeriCorps week, I decided to fill everyone in on an AmeriCorps program that not only helps our organization but helps thousands of people in the state of Ohio on a daily basis. That organization being, Children’s Hunger Alliance ( CHA); a non-profit organization that works with youth services, after-school programs , childcare facilities and faith-based organizations to provide healthy meals to children in need.

At Hamilton STEM Academy we work with CHA on a daily basis. They provide meals for our after-school programs. The meals are delivered to us each day before our programs start. They always contain a fruit or vegetable, grain, meat and dairy product to ensure that our students get their daily dosage of the food pyramid. In order for an organization to obtain and keep the free meals that they receive they must follow several very important rules. The organization requesting the free meals must go to a training session that gives that organization all of the information necessary to run their meal program successfully. The organization must give the names, birthdates, genders, and allergies of all participating children to CHA. They must make sure that all of the eating areas are clean and every child receives each part of their meal. An organization must have a copy of their menu on display during their after-school program at all times. They do check-ins three times a year to make sure that your program is following the rules set out by CHA.

Children’s Hunger Alliance began in 1970 and now serves every single county in Ohio. Not only do they provide free meals to thousands of Ohio children, they also provide education on healthy eating habits and physical activity. They have several AmeriCorps members that provide that information to the parents and children that they serve.  Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities is an AmeriCorps program run through CHA that provides full-time support in Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Akron, and Cincinnati. They spend roughly half of their time providing education concerning the topics of healthy choices and physical activity and the other half on providing insight to expand the capacity of Children’s Hunger Alliance.

Despite the fact that I am serving as a City Year volunteer it is a necessity for myself and others to realize that we cannot do it alone. Rarely can any AmeriCorps program reach their goals and expectations on its own. It needs the help from the surrounding communities, citizens and businesses alike. In our case, we have the ability to work hand-in-hand with another AmeriCorps funded program that allows each of us to help reach our goals, expectations and children that we serve.

Dr Seuss and Read Across America Day

By: Christine Olding

Dr. Seuss is one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. A man we are all familiar with and who personally changed my life as a small child. I could sit here and talk to you about who he was and the books he wrote, however, I am going to show you how Dr. Seuss directly affects my service.

Most of you have heard the quote, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” A quote that I use daily in my service. A few weeks ago, I was alerted that one of my 4th grade students was being bullied due to his size and intellect. I decided that it was duty to help him through this time. He’s never been the type of kid to use violence to solve his problems and I could tell he was having a hard time coping with this new onset of bullying. I wanted to make sure he realized and took pride in how amazing he truly is. So, I decided to show him this quote. After showing him we talked about what the quote meant and differing ways he could “protect” himself from negative situations that he would find himself in. We talked about his friends, family, what he wanted to be when he grew up and an acronym S.A.S.S (stay calm; assess the situation, solution orientated and self-confidence). Together we talked through the good and the bad and solutions to a multitude of problems.  I continue to meet with this student and we continue to discuss how to better handle situations and how to find confidence in who you are.

I know that this is an unconventional way to celebrate the birth and influence of such a great writer, however, to me, it is the best way to say thank you. Thank you Dr. Seuss for helping one 4th grade student find out who he is and all the wonderful things he can do.

This Friday February 24th is Read Across America Day for City Year Columbus. A day we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Seuss.  This year, the book that is being showcased this year is The Lorax, in observance of the moving coming out this year. The theme this year is green and some suggestions to make your school community green include: making a reading garden, planting a Truffala tree forest or even just having a Lorax lead your schools reading parade.  So, grab a pick and grab a kid and help Dr. Seuss change their lives like he changed mine, yours and 4th Andrew.

The Art of In-Kinding

By: Jeff League

Donations are the life-blood of any non-profit.  As the Project Leader at City Year Columbus, I have the great opportunity of heading our local in-kind committee.  The in-kind committee’s job is to solicit local business for food or gift card donations which we use to support our site-wide and school based events.

While asking for a donation may seem like a daunting task, Columbus is blessed with an abundance of generous businesses..  We would like to take this time to thank all those businesses who have graciously lent their support to City Year Columbus.