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Corps Member Monday: Corps Members and Our Hat Racks

February 24, 2014

by Noel Thompson, corps member proudly serving on the New Schools for Baton Rouge Entergy Louisiana Team at Broadmoor Middle School

If I’ve learned one thing in my time at City Year, it’s that a corps member wears many hats.

9 visages

A common misconception coming into City Year Baton Rouge is that I would be working specifically with kids alone and teaching them how to read well and do other things well to (I probably watched Zoolander 15 too many times before I applied). I understood that our primary goal would be working to better educational inequality with some physical service work, but I never seriously considered what that meant.
This is the broader picture of what our team does to better children (and some things that are just…well. Silly).
  • Translate documents from English into Spanish using my 3 semesters of college Spanish so students could better understand material.
  • Use my one semester of Swahili to help a new student acclimate to her surroundings.
  • Learn HTML over the course of a month to re-code the school website and make it slightly more user-friendly.
  • Drain the school pond, replace a filter, purchase fish, and make sure they live.
  • Re-drain said pond, transplant fish to safer home, and determine how mosquito infestations occur in November.
  • Call families to track down absent children, confirm those children were at school, and then run through school to track them down.
  • Judge middle school Social Studies and Science fairs.
  • Argue objective rankings of a exact scale replica of the Great Wall of China versus the merits of a fully thought out business plan for a hair salon during Social Studies fairs.
  • Replicating a Monet painting in Mural form in one of our neighborhoods for the Melrose East project in Baton Rouge (I had to start over halfway through, as the director pointed out that I was indeed painting a la Manet. The embarrassment)

There are obviously times where we tutor children on attendance, behavior, and course behavior, but it’s the odd experiences that stick out at you.

The great thing about City Year is that I’m sure being a Corps Member in Miami or Tulsa looks completely different than being a Corps Member in Baton Rouge. Being a Corps Member in middle school is totally different than being a CM in high school. It’s such an specific role from place to place that I don’t think I could tell incoming Corps Members what to expect.

The best advice I can give is to find your figurative hat guy. Not the guy in the French Market who sold me that $15 panama hat, but the person who peddles wisdom. Find the person who has a lot of experience with a lot of different things and can show you how to multi-task and manage to develop multitudes of skills you never expected with the job. Find the one who has your best interests and well-being at heart, and wants to see you succeed. My hat guy is my Team Leader Jon. He’s constantly pushed me to be more than I thought my role could be, and I’m incredibly grateful to him for giving me all those hats.

But, really shout out to Ralph in New Orleans for that hat. I love it to death.

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