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To infinity and beyond! Multiply the power of everything

As of this coming week, classes at USC start. It’s crazy to think that I’m not going back to school this year (especially considering I still live close to campus). No more reporting classes, no more newsroom/class jokes and no more being around journalism kids. I’m already suffering from separation anxiety with reporting. Luckily, however, City Year has a team called the “Communication Reserves Team” that manages the blog, social media pages and writes the content. You have to be accepted to the team, but since I have a strong journalism background I don’t see why I wouldn’t be. So, hopefully that works out so I can still write this year outside of this blog!

Week one of academy is done. It’s overwhelming how much has happened in a week with moving into our new house (yes, we finally got the keys!) and all the new people I’ve met through City Year. This week was pretty much a week long orientation all about the dropout crisis, AmeriCorps/City Year standards, leadership building games, our LACY plan (Leadership After City Year plan), etc. We got split up into “crazy teams,” which are teams of 10+ corps members who work together through academy. When we volunteer in front of all the corps members we have to stand and declare what team we serve on. So I would say something like this: I’m Liz from the Bay Area and I proudly serve on PITW #5: To infinity! (and my group chants and beyond!)

Taken from another blog post: “What is a PITW you ask? PITW is an acronym for “Putting Idealism To Work.” PITWs are tools and techniques that City Year corps and staff utilize to get things done! There are 181 PITWs to-date, each one with its own story, lesson, experience and inspiration to help bring City Year corps and staff together around common goals that ultimately support our mission and vision.”

In summary, our slogan is “to infinity and beyond” because our Putting Idealism to Work (PITW) is about the power of multiplying service. The more volunteers, the more powerful impact we can have as a team in the community. I got paired with two of my roommates, Lauren and Nicole, but the rest are new people and I’ve enjoyed talking to all of them. Our team leaders, Brandon, Ricky, Shawn and Kathy are awesome. Outside of my crazy team, I’ve met other people from literally all over the country. Recent high school grads. Recent college grads. People who grew up in Watts or other areas we serve. All different ethnicities. Really outgoing people, some shy. I have not met one rude person, everyone is so open and willing to share who they are. The enthusiasm of the staff, senior corps members and corps members is SO powerful. After one week I know I’m in the perfect place at the right time and I have no complaints. After discussing with other corps members/senior corps members about why students drop out I am no longer aprehensive about my decision to stay in LA for the program. Because I reported on education and know what’s going on in school district politics, I feel like this experience will be even better. I know that I’m not just trying to prevent some students from dropping out, but I’m also making a difference in the second largest school district in the country.

The purpose of our organization was finally clarified when our Team Leaders clarified what exactly we will be doing in schools. In the morning, we will be there before school starts to welcome the kids and pump them up for their day. Likewise, we can have “morning” clubs or “lunch” clubs and have morning tutoring sessions. Then we’ll get a group of 10 or so students who are each of ours for the year and we will follow them to their classes and serve as a role model/mentor for them. These kids that we will be assigned will be students who are on the verge of dropping out (based on test scores, attendance and behavior problems). After school we once again have tutoring sessions and implement after school programs. Everyone on the school team will get a role that helps the after school programs move forward. I’m hoping I get the role that allows us to start our own lunch clubs because I am dying to start a newspaper club for my kiddies! I took a community journalism class at USC where we made a newspaper with sixth grade students over the course of the semester. It was so cute how intrigued the kids were about interviewing people.

We get our school assignments during a camping retreat on Tuesday. My fingers are crossed I get assigned to a South LA middle school (Gompers or Markham) because 1) I want to serve in the community I’ve been living in and 2) I’ve reported on these schools. Fingers. Are. Crossed. I’ve definitely let my team leaders know my strong, strong opinion on school placement. But, in the end, if I don’t get a South LA middle school I’ll just have to deal with it and learn about a new part of LA, which I’m sure will be just as awesome as it would be to work in South LA. I think mainly the program directors (who are placing corps members on school teams) are focusing the most on splitting up the “fourteen person house” on different teams. I think there’s a total of 17 or 18 schools City Year works at in LA, so I’m assuming we probably all be on separate teams.

One of my favorite activities from the week was writing our personal leadership statement and then sharing them in our groups. I’ve done this before with summer camp, but not as extensively as the one I wrote: I lead to hear life stories, share life experiences, expose myself to a culture different from my own and learn something new from every single person I meet during my life.

On Friday we had our first PT (physical training) session where we learned three different stomps and chants (that all make us scream “SPIRIT, DISCIPLINE, PURPOSE AND PRIDE”). Not gonna lie, it’s a little cultish/militaristic, but it’s also pretty cool to see everyone so loud and spirited. Soon enough, we’ll be working in the downtown LA office every Friday and before starting our day we’ll have to do these stomps and chants in the middle of Pershing Square (in our Timbz, of course). I am going to force my friends outside of City Year to see it at least once to make fun of me.

I also got to talk to a RPCV (returned Peace Corps volunteer) who is working as a senior corps member. She taught English in the Ukraine, which is where I’m interested in going (anywhere in Eastern Europe, I guess). She had lunch with my roommate Jamey (who has already been nominated for the Peace Corps and will probably be leaving this summer) and I. She just talked about how amazing her experience was and that it was really hard to adjust back to America when she returned; she said it took her over a year to immerse herself back into American culture. Talking to her made me even more excited to submit my application in October!

On a closing note, the Manor finally has internet and cable!

Yours in Service,
The Warden

The girl roommates (minus Mercedes and Nicole from left to right: Me, Lauren, Maghan, Koni, Marissa, Molly)

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