Grief, observed

I had an aunt who laughed uncontrollably at funerals.

Everyone deals with things differently. In grief we fall in line with those who are sympathetic toward our individual outlooks. This isn’t to say one is right and the others are not, but rather that everyone finds solace in familiarity. When we first started, it seemed as though people gravitated toward one another by whatever secret chemistry there is amongst strangers. Then the school teams were formed, then the class teams were formed within the school team, and then teacher-corps member bonds led to sort of teams within team.

But after an event like the one that rocked Linden and Mifflin these last weeks, those teams are broken down. Some students joke. Some students cry. Some corps members speak up. Others keep quiet. Emotion is displayed or disguised. In group discussion, I mostly listen, stare at the floor and find patterns in the carpet. Perhaps I’m unwilling to open up in such a large group. But I admire those in the corps who can. I admire those students who ask for help and those who try to remain strong. I find myself frustrated with those who joke around, but equally frustrated with myself when I cannot put into words what I’m feeling. I remind myself that everyone grieves differently. Not everyone is used to tragedy, not everyone knows an appropriate way to react.

Within our corps and within our schools, teams are broken down and a Team is formed. We are united, no matter how we react, by a desire to make a difference. In light of the circumstances, we may be at a loss on how to create an effective plan, but I believe we’re all on the same page.  It’s frustrating in times like these to feel so small, so isolated, unsure of what we may be able to do, uncertain of how to move forward.

But I am thankful that together as a Team we can lean on one another and likewise be ones to lean on, to be a unified agent of change in our service.

— Kyle Bialko, first year corps member of the ATT Team at Linden-McKinley STEM Academy


Solidarity among teams


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

Every Day

PITW #159: This is hard.
Be strong.

Five months into my service, it’s safe to say that City Year is one the hardest but most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Every day I wake up and go to Linden McKinley STEM Academy (LMSA) and follow my cohort of 9th graders from class to class. Power greeting, attendance check-ins, push-ins, pull-outs, tracking data, every day has the same premise, but every day is a little different. Every day has its own trials and tribulations. Every day has its own silver lining.

I’m sure most of the corps would agree that sometimes there are days when PITW #159 rings especially true. Nearly halfway through our service year, we’ve all seen a lot, learned a bunch, and felt the crushing pressure of trying to help our students however we can.

I’m writing today to talk about the second part of this PITW, “be strong”. Seems easier said than done sometimes. One of the things that helps me stay strong is thinking back to why I decided to join City Year in the first place. My personal motivations came from my desire to work in a school with students and I wanted to do something to help my adopted Columbus community.

When I think about my service from that perspective, I can see that I’ve met and exceeded these initial goals by a landslide. Every day I wake up and go to a school. Every day I help my students. I’ve met so many wonderful people from the LMSA and greater Linden community. It warms my heart to think that I have the privilege of making a difference here. Though I may never see the cathedral that we’re building, I am so glad both to be a part of building it and to get to know the other people working on it.

Sometimes all it takes is a little perspective to realize that, though there’s much to get done and the greater mission is so critically important, just being part of the process is amazing. It’s easier to be strong when you know it’s all worth it in the end.

— Darcy McCarthy, First year Corps Member of the ATT Team at Linden-McKinley STEM Academy