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Eagles, soar! Humble swag: school assignments

I’m not particularly a fan of camping, so when our team leaders told us we had to go on a retreat to Big Bear with all the corps members, I wasn’t too thrilled. However, I was excited because the second day of retreat we got our official school assignments!

We left the downtown LA office (on Olive and Sixth Street, right next to Pershing Square) early in the morning, boarded the school buses with our PITW teams and headed up to the mountains. When we got there, we settled in and then right off the bat went straight to Crazy Team Olympics, which is a competition between all the PITW teams through leadership building activities. Here’s my PITW team I mentioned in my last blog post: TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!

Unfortunately, we didn’t win; but that’s alright because my team has been so much fun for the past two or so weeks! After Olympics and dinner we had a discussion on “privilege” and what it means to us. We also had to think back of what our bedroom was like when we were 11 or 12-years-old and basically think about how we may or may not have been privileged and why. Of course this brought into discussion about socioeconomic status. When we did the public discussion portion of this workshop, I spoke up about what privilege meant to me. I said that when I was around 12-years-old I was very privileged: I got pretty much everything I wanted, my parents pretty much let me do whatever I wanted and my friends were also allowed to be around me. I attribute this to being an only child and that my parents felt guilty that I didn’t have siblings, so they let me invite my friends on vacation or have them over for sleepovers when I wanted. I reasoned that although I may have been privileged back then, now I look back and don’t think I really was because I don’t have siblings and have a tiny family. So, looking back, money doesn’t buy happiness and just because you have money doesn’t mean you’re privileged. Being privileged can mean many things and to me, it might mean having a that big family I never had.

After that, we had some free time for the night. Top: Mercedes and I at dinner. Bottom: This is me looking awkwardly, Maghan, Mercedes, Nicole and Koni.

The next day, bright ‘n early at 9:00 a.m., we got our team assignments. Our team leaders placed pins on our backs that signified what “pueblo” we were in. A pueblo is a group of school teams that are grouped together in the same location of LA and work together on Fridays. My pin said, “keep calm and never doubt.” Some of my roommates and I were too anxious to see what our pins said and when we grouped together Lauren, Daniel, Bryan, Jamey, Marissa and I all had the same pin. Lauren told me what my pin said and I was ecstatic because I realized that that meant I was in the South LA pubelo. I couldn’t stop smiling and jumping up and down…if I was someone watching my mannerisms, I probably would have thought in my head, “damn, that girl is obnoxious.” But, I don’t care because I knew right then and there I was assigned to a South LA school and I couldn’t be more thrilled to serve in the community I went to school in/have lived in for the past three years (going on four). We had to sing song lyrics (some rap song I don’t remember) that incorporated South Central LA. Our call, after being introduced to our pueblo leaders is, “NEVER DOUBT!” So far, we’re probably the loudest geographical pueblo out of ’em all. NEVER DOUBT!

On the back of our pin, we had a colored star sticker. Mine was green. We grouped with other people who had color green stickers, which meant that was our team, but we didn’t know what school we were assigned to yet. Unfortunately, I was paired with two of my roommates, Daniel and Marissa. Jokes, jokes, jokes. Actually, I’m so stoked I’m serving with both of them and think we will make a great team! It’s funny because I thought that City Year would try their hardest to split up our whole house on different teams (and everyone else is on separate teams), but ironically three of us are on the same team. I think we’re there for a reason and can’t wait for that reason to unfold 🙂

After we grouped based on color sticker, we had to run and get a clue about our school. The answer to our clue was an eagle (our school mascot). I ran back up to the senior corps member, got another envelope with letters in it that we spelled out to say “Markham.”

I was seriously beaming with joy and could not have been happier when I found out that I would be serving in one of the schools I focused my investigative story on. And so we’ve been told that this is one of the hardest schools that City Year works in throughout the country and I am honestly honored that Marissa, Daniel and I are on this team.

Markham Middle School is a school that has gone through eight different principals in eight different years, nine or so different mascots in a matter of a decade and was one of the schools that got hit the hardest by layoffs in 2008-2009. Markham was the main school that filed the lawsuit I focused on in my investigative story (read it for more explanation on the lawsuit) and is now protected from layoffs so is recuperating itself from losing about 50 percent of its teaching staff.

Historically, it has a stigma attached to its name as just a really low performing school with no hope. Last year, City Year didn’t return to Markham after one year of service because of a non-utilized, clashed relationship between the administration and City Year. So now it’s up to the Markham team to reinvigorate that relationship and show them what we have to offer to this school to help it turn around. The principal from last year, for the first time in eight years, is staying a second year because he has faith in the school and is very supportive of our City Year team coming in. Marissa wants to start an after school dance program with the kiddies (she’s been dancing since she was 2 1/2 years old) and I want to start a newspaper with the kids. I can’t wait to hang with my little reporters!

I still have to research more on the types of test scores this school has had for the past couple of years and if it’s made much progression, but I will do that when I’m not so tired.

I know I was placed on this school for a reason and CANNOT WAIT to meet my students/serve there. Our team motto is HUMBLE SWAG.

The feeling I get from knowing that I am serving in a school I’ve reported about is unexplainable. It might even be a better feeling than the reporter’s rush any journalist gets after they know they’ve got a golden story or made deadline. Now that I know I’ve got one of the tougher/more challenging schools in the district, I know I am going to be pushed to an extreme I’ve never been before. I’m going to be challenged. It’s going to be rough. It’s going to be great. LET’S GO!

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