Baby Steps

"Baby" -- In the past, the term had only be used when referring to a newborn child, but now, in many ways, it has become a recent idiomatic phenomenon in American English. When people talk about their "babies," they could be making reference to their children (young or old), pets, friends--and for many of us corps members--students.

We all follow one cohort of students, and always display a lot of pride when speaking of them. One of our sixth grade team members has a reason to be proud...

There are numerous after-school programs that all diffuse in one building, which is conveniently that of our middle school. (awesome...) This can create some opposition from the students when we are forced to separate them in the cafeteria during snack time  Afterwards, all of the programs go into separate locales within the school.

During snack time, one student from another after-school program (but also a sixth grader attending our middle school) keeps beaming at me. I don't know what to think of it, so I only smile back, knowing I have a lot of things to do in the next few minutes. However, after the third time, I felt obligated to say something.

"Hey man, how's it going?"
"I want to be in the City Year heroes thing... :-/"

This student had discussed with the corps member stationed in his class that his mother wanted to keep him in his current program, and he expressed that he enjoyed it. While we all would love for all of our students to be in our after-school program, we believe it's mostly important that the students participate in some program, City Year or not. However, this new response was very different from his prior one. I asked him...

"Well, I know you are already signed up for this one, but would like me to get you an application?"
He sheepishly nodded and returned to his seat, watching me as I left the cafeteria to retrieve a blank application.

This gave me a lot of good spirits as an after-school coordinator. I was proud of the team, and the curriculum we had established. I hurriedly returned with the application, expecting a basic hand-off. But he stopped me.

"Hey, how old do you need to be to be in City Year?"
I grinned. "Well, you need to have at least graduated from high school. Most of us are college-age students."
"So can I graduate from high school, do City Year, and then go to college?"
"That's what I'm doing, so you definitely can too!"
"That's awesome! I want to be just like you all when I'm older. I want to be in City Year forever!"

After commending his enthusiasm, I had another one of those "Aha!" moments. Maybe I want to be in City Year forever too? Well, maybe not City Year, but at least something like it. 92% of people have found jobs in this country, but how many of them have found a passion? I feel so lucky to have found that at such a young age. I initially took a gap year because I needed a break from regimented education, and wanted to volunteer and travel. Now, at age 18, I am confident that I have a clear direction I want to take in my life (at least for now).

So, I guess this path I am taking is my own pet project--my "baby," if you will. I don't know where I'm going to go, what I'm going to see, who I'm going to impact, or what type of effect I am going to have on other people. But I do know this: I am going to feel happy and fulfilled. So, what's your baby?