Serving with City Year right out of high school
If you’re not exactly sure what you want to do after high school, you’re not alone.
That doesn’t mean your “gap” year can’t be filled with transformative experiences, valuable skills, and leadership opportunities that help to prepare you for your next step—whether that’s college or career.
Just hear from Jesus Martinez Sosa, a first-year AmeriCorps member serving with City Year Tulsa as a student success coach in a local public school.
Born and raised in Tulsa, Jesus started his City Year journey right after he graduated from high school and has found joy and meaning in his work with students. Every day, Jesus and his AmeriCorps teammates collaborate with teachers to provide additional support in the classroom, helping students reach their personal and academic goals while he also explores his own strengths and interests.
He’s already looking forward to the future.
Paying it forward by becoming an AmeriCorps member
The main reason I wanted to become a City Year corps member after high school was because I had City Year in my school when I was a student.
I was a very quiet kid, especially in middle school and the first two years of high school. I was lucky in that I knew I had the support of my classroom teachers, but the extra help that City Year corps members provided was so special. My City Year’s’ name was Jessica Butay, and she’s a City Year Tulsa impact manager now, helping AmeriCorps members like me learn how to tutor and mentor students.
Growing up, she helped me to become more comfortable in social environments. Jess helped me see that it was okay to open up to others and helped me figure out how I could build safe spaces and connections.
Changing students’ lives by supporting them as they learn and develop
My experience as a student with City Year AmeriCorps member support was life-changing. So, it’s very special for me to give back and serve students who were once like me.
Being able to tell a student, “Hey, it’s okay that you didn’t get the grade you hoped for on the exam,” or “It’s okay to be nervous about building friendships,” or a simple “I’m here for you, and I understand” goes a long way. I know hearing those words of affirmation was vital for me.
It was easy for me to apply to City Year after graduating because I had such a powerful, transformative experience as a student.
Students have full and complicated emotional lives that deserve our attention
I serve in an elementary school—specifically fifth graders. That can be a challenging age—you’re about to go into middle school and experiencing physical and emotional changes that you can’t always make sense of. As someone who remembers being that age, I can completely empathize. But as a student success coach, trying to find the best way to support a student can be challenging!
Again, I think the key is just being there to listen and gently guide them as they try to sort out their emotions. While I can give advice, it’s not my “job” to be prescriptive and tell them what I think they should do. I want them to do what feels best and most comfortable for them.
As I mentioned before, simple and open-ended questions are beneficial here: A lot of times, I ask, “Hey, what can we do to help you feel more confident about how to get through what you’re experiencing?”
City Year offers high school graduates unique leadership and scholarship opportunities
One cool thing about being a corps member right out of high school is that I’ve been afforded all these leadership opportunities that I’m not sure I would have had elsewhere. Right now, I’m the corps coordinator for our DBIE (diversity, belonging, inclusion and equity) initiatives.
My goal is to ensure that our students feel supported, seen and included. I tend to do a lot of culture-based work in school.
So, for example, for Hispanic Heritage Month, we did a lesson on important historical and cultural Latinx figures. We wanted the students to know that we consider histories and stories important to their communities, and we wanted them to see those things included in their learning environments.
There’s something special about serving the community you’re from
I wanted to serve my community because it made the most sense for me. I love the people in Tulsa—they made me want to stay and serve in my hometown. For example, our school hosted a “Ginger Jam,” where we invited students and their families to come out and build gingerbread houses.
The gym was packed with people—a huge turnout! It was so cool and exciting to see our students and their loved ones together—and to meet the family members supporting them at home! It’s small, but events like these—where the community comes together to support students—make this unique for me.
I even ran into my third-grade teacher at the event. She was so surprised to see me and expressed how proud she was that I had chosen to become a City Year AmeriCorps member. We were both a little emotional; it was just a fantastic full-circle moment.
After a year of service with City Year, the possibilities seem endless
I don’t know exactly what I want to do after my year of service, but I’m keeping an open mind. I would love to return for a second year as a City Year service leader and spend another year with my students before college.
When I started service, I thought I’d attend college and major in computer science. But recently, I’ve been thinking about potentially majoring in sociology.
The topics studied in sociology can be closely related to the work I’m doing as a student success coach—particularly how inequitable access to resources and systemic racism affect our communities and our student’s learning environments.
But we’ll see. I’m open to exploring options, and the great thing about this experience is that it’s given me the time and space to figure out my interests and how I want to explore them!
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