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The Human Aspect of Service

September 12, 2012

By Emma Sullivan, Corps Member Proudly Serving at Merrydale Elementary School

When I learned that I was going to be serving at Merrydale Elementary School, I was thrilled. It was my first choice, and I was pretty sure that because of that, I would be placed somewhere else. I have always loved working with young children, and really enjoyed my time in elementary school.
Pretty much anyone who has spent more than a few hours with me knows that I am very task-oriented. I like organizing and color-coding and making lists and checking things off of lists (especially that one). And that is how I started my year. I wanted to get stuff done. And when that wasn’t happening immmediately, I got a little panicky. So, at some point during the second week at Merrydale, I started to feel overwhelmed. Thanks to City Year’s strong culture, I very quickly realized that I had lost sight of why I’m here, and got back on track.

In our City Year room at Merrydale, we have a wall where we post a new PITW (Putting Idealism To Work, a collection of words of wisdom for getting the most out of this year) every week. The previous week, Molly, my Team Leader, had chosen PITW #50: “We Must Never Lose the Human Aspect of What We Are Doing”. This was exactly what I needed to see that week. After that, I started writing down cute, funny, and inspiring things that Merrydale students do. Here are a few of my notes:

1. While I was welcoming students to school in the morning, I held my hand up to high five a pre-k boy, and he went in for a fist bump. I love fist bumps from 4-year-olds.

2. During social studies in my third grade classroom, we were looking at a map of the United States. A student asked me where I’m from. I told her Ohio, and she asked, “Is this in America?

3. One day, I spent a lot of time with one particular student. Before I left, I told her I had a meeting the next day, but would be back the next week. Here’s the conversation that followed, and simultaneously warmed and broke my heart.

4. Me: I won’t see you tomorrow, but I’ll see you next week!

Student:  I don’t want you to come back next week.

Me: (Offended because I thought she didn’t want to see me again) What?!

Student: I want you to stay.

5. Two days ago, one of my students asked me if my eyes were real.

6. Every morning, I stand outside of the kindergarten and pre-k buildings and welcome them to school. (The cutest part of Merrydale for sure.) I greet every student with “Good morning! Have a good day!” and a high-five (and the occasional fist bump), and they usually smile and hide their face out of embarrassment, respond “hi,” or stare at me as if I’m speaking a foreign language. Recently, however, a kindergartner smiled at me and responded with a confident “I WILL!” It totally made my morning.


All of these moments reminded me that I am here to change lives. Every single person with whom I interact during the day has a personality, a brain, and quirks just like I do. These kids are real people, are listening when I talk to them, and do want to learn. Although there are lots of small tasks involved in this job, I need to try my best not to get bogged down. I must never lose the human aspect of what I am doing.

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