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What a Difference a Year Makes: Finding Hope and Resilience

Group of happy AmeriCorps members in masks
Corps for a Change members with their designated peer group, outside and wearing masks.

With the support of my CYC members and supervisors, I have been able to fully integrate into my new school and have already felt that I’m making an incredible impact in the google classroom, just like I would have in the in-person classroom.

Lena, Corps for a Change member

CYC AmeriCorps members that serve with Reading Corps and Corps for a Change dedicate a ten-month term supporting children and youth in Colorado. Sometimes, members return to serve multiple terms. With all the changes happening in education due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these returning members bring insight into the differences in serving students prior to and during the pandemic. Read on to learn from Jessica, a Reading Corps member, and Lena, a Corps for a Change member. Their experiences highlight that though their service may look a bit different, the impact of their service is more meaningful than ever. 

How are things different and/or more challenging this year?

Jessica: The are many differences between my first and second term as a Reading Corps tutor but it is not overwhelming. How I interact with the students is very different. We social distance, interact through a plastic table top barrier, and we use adapted interventions. For instance, when I tutor some students in Newscaster, we both have a copy of the story, and I trust them to track while I read aloud. This is a change from the original set-up of one copy of the story and the tutor tracking for the student. It is amazing to see how quickly my students have adapted to the new way of life!

Lena: With the support of my CYC members and supervisors, I have been able to fully integrate into my new school and have already felt that I’m making an incredible impact in the google classroom, just like I would have in the in-person classroom. It is also different hitting the ground running with a toolbox full of activities, strategies and skills. As a second term service member, I have been fortunate to be able to take on more responsibilities. These responsibilities, like organizing and facilitating bi-weekly small group meetings and supporting first-term service members, have been a great way for me to step out of my comfort zone and grow both personally and professionally. 

Where are you seeing glimmers of hope?

Jessica: I see hope in the ways my students handle all the new changes. My students are very vigilant about wearing their masks, washing their hands, and keeping distance between us. Seeing young kids behaving so well in these chaotic times shows me that we as a society will get through this better and stronger than we were before.  

Lena: Students are still passionate about learning in a time when motivation levels could be at an all-time low. They are faced with so many obstacles and hardships on a daily basis yet they still are online turning in work being curious and creative—it is so inspiring.   

How are you promoting community care for students?  

Jessica: My school does a fantastic job promoting health and safety to its students. Every morning, the principal reminds students to stay safe and congratulates them on a job well done so far. The support my students have from the school makes it easy to support their health and safety during our sessions. My students keep their masks on and stay behind the barrier when I am tutoring. They do a great job of following these expectations.  

Lena: We bookend the week with Mental Health Monday and Self-care Friday where on Mondays we do a variety of social emotional activities and Friday we all talk about what we are going to do for ourselves to unwind and relax on the weekend. The students really take it seriously and it creates genuine conversations about what it means to take care of yourself. 

How are you caring for yourself as the service member? 

Jessica: My self-care is more than staying healthy. I try to stay positive and find the joy in my life! It is easy to find stress in our lives right now, so I try to focus on good relationships I have, the feeling of comfort I get from my cat, and all the good things that are happening! I hope that once the virus is under control, society will still find ways of supporting one another and adapting to meet one another’s needs.  

Lena: The biggest thing I do is set boundaries. Creating the divide between my personal and professional life and saying no to things that I don’t have the capacity to take on is not easy but I’ve made it a priority this year. As well as boundaries, having our designated small peer groups has been a great way to have that outlet of people who understand your experiences as a Corps member and can really empathize with whatever may be happening.  

Please share a story of resilience.

Jessica: I have one student that struggles saying vowel sounds. Every session we practice saying the different sounds and they always try so hard to pronounce each letter clearly. Even though they have a mask on, I can see their concentration! This student really wants to get their vowels right and after every session, they leave with a smile and say how much they love to read. Their positive attitude has lasted all year, and they are making great improvements.   

Lena: Going from in-person learning and then being forced into remote learning involves a mourning process that I don’t think gets talked about enough. Having to balance hope but not too much hope, a sense of realism but not too pessimistic, and continuing to figure out best practices of doing school during a pandemic requires resiliency from each and every person to get up every day and put their best foot forward. As we face the rest of the school year, I don’t see this resiliency going anywhere. Whether you are in a traditional public school or in a small alternative school, the challenges will keep coming but the dedication to the education and well-being of students will never fade into the background.  

Seeing young kids behaving so well in these chaotic times shows me that we as a society will get through this better and stronger than we were before. 

Jessica, Colorado Reading Corps member

As we learned from Jessica and Lena, AmeriCorps members with CYC are being intentional about promoting mental and physical health with their students, pre-K through high school. More broadly, many of us are caring not just for ourselves but for others in this unprecedented time. Whether that is checking in with friends and family members who live alone, balancing working from home with family responsibilities, working in an essential position, or a million other scenarios, the work you are doing to keep yourself and your community healthy matters.

Community and self-care ideas from our team:

  • Take these suggestions from Jessica and Lena: enjoy your pets, focus on your good relationships, set boundaries, and engage with peers and take comfort in shared experiences.  
  • Get into nature. Research suggests being in nature is great for your mental health. 
  • Spend time on a hobby or teach an interested friend or family member about your hobby. 
  • Do that thing that’s been patiently waiting on your to-do list and be kind to yourself as you do it.  
  • Learn something new. Check out: EdX, CourseraSkillshare, YouTube (e.g. Crash Course, specific tutorials, etc.). 
  • Meditate: set a timer for three minutes and, until it goes off, practice returning your focus to your breath each time your mind wanders. It’s that simple!
  • Try a new way to move your body. If you always do yoga, go for a run. If you always lift weights, dance. If you always swim, try a HIIT workout. Etc.

This material is based upon work supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) under Grant #18AFHCO0010015. Opinions or points of view expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of, or a position that is endorsed by AmeriCorps.

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