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Let’s Talk About the Positive

February 19, 2013

By Meghan Donohue, Corps Member Proudly Serving at Belaire High School

Even though a huge chunk of my time as a City Year Corps Member is spent working with students, I also devote a few hours a week to an extra leadership opportunity outside of my regular service hours.

Along with my fellow Corps Member Tiffany Holmes, I serve as the Parent Engagement coordinator at Belaire High School. The main goal of this role is to increase parent involvement in school activities and raise awareness of their child’s studies and behavior. To do so, Tiffany and I developed two separate initiatives focused on building positive communicative relationships between the school and its parent/guardian community: Positivity! and Meet the Corps.

The Positivity! project is founded upon cheerful and open communication, reporting the positive work and behavior of a student to the home of the parent/guardian. Corps Members simply fill out a form and record the results of their Positivity! call in a designated binder.  Meet the Corps letters is a more specific process, targeting the parent/guardians of Focus List students, intended to explain the work of City Year so that families and Corps Members can work together to provide their students with the most effective support. When sent home, Meet the Corps letters will also contain City Year Parent Engagement Surveys.

Not only did these projects add value to my City Year’s service at Belaire, but by building purposeful gateways to inspire positive change within both the parent/guardian and Belaire community, I learned how to develop personal leadership skills and strategies within myself. Although creating and executing these projects was difficult, motivating my fellow Corps Members to partake in both projects was the largest challenge I faced. I was frustrated, as these projects had great potential, and my pleading was not enough to excite my teammates and leverage these initiatives. With the guidance of my Program Manager, I challenged myself, devising a deadline and an organized incentive plan to promote accountability, urgency, and mindfulness. For Meet the Corps letters, a simple week-long deadline was instated and heavily communicated by myself and Tiffany (and the critical authoritative support of my Program Manager and Team Leaders helped further push these initiatives to the forefront). The results: every single Corps Members completed their Meet the Corps letters on time!

With Positivity!, a food-oriented incentive was devised: if Corps Members make over fifty documented Positivity! phone calls in one month, we will have a pizza party. I then dedicated a section of wall in the City Year room to Parent Engagement to promote team awareness.


Last month, my teammates made over forty Positivity! calls and many share their productive and insightful conversations with parents or guardians during Joys and Ripples. As these small moments are shared, I know I am making a difference, and even though I am not working directly with students, my coordinator role still represents my driving, constant hope  that small instances of positivity will grow to lead towards  big steps in productivity.

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