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Over the past 15 years, Bain Capital has sponsored teams of AmeriCorps members, helping develop and support more than 200 young idealist giving a year of service. For the 2016-2017 school year, the firm has extended that commitment to sponsor teams of corps members serving in Boston, London, New York, Providence and San Jose/Silicon Valley. The corps members are inspiring and a great way to get to the heart of what makes City Year great.

City Year Corps Member of the Month - December: Anansa Benbow

Name: Anansa Benbow

School serving: Central High School in Providence, RI

Hometown: Troy, NY

What made you decide to join City Year?

In 8th grade, I had a student teacher, Mr. K, who introduced our class to Sudoku puzzles. Little did he know, these puzzles would change my life. I would eventually complete them within minutes, so he began to bring multiple puzzles for me to finish. I began completing puzzles from the local newspaper with my family and tried to design my own. At my 8th grade graduation, he gave me my first Sudoku puzzles book. After I completed the book, my parents bought me another, and they continue to do so. I still use puzzles as a means to stimulate my mind. To me, this story perfectly illustrates the impact that I imagined I would have on my students and their families when I decided to join City Year. City Year provides me with the opportunity to pay it forward. Growing up, I was fortunate to have positive role models, like Mr. K, who empowered me through music, sports, and academics. I joined City Year because I want to empower students and help them realize their self-worth. I feel that City Year's mission and service model allows me to do so effectively.

Why are you committed to serving with City Year?

I am committed to serving with City Year because I ultimately believe in the mission and integrity of the organization. While I feel as though I have given so much to City Year, it in turn has given so much to me. The work place environment is filled with community and love. I know that when the time comes, I will leave the organization with a wealth of emotional intelligence, a more compassionate person, and a civically engaged adult. I am committed to serving with City Year because my students deserve a mentor, coach, and role model who is idealistic, and operates with an "aggressive empathy." They deserve someone who won't give up on them, and who will persist through adversity for them. They also deserve someone who can respond to their cultural needs, and deeply cherishes their identities. I had always planned to do what I could to make my community better than the way I inherited it. Through City Year, I am doing just that.

How do you know you are making a difference?

After serving in an 8th grade classroom last year, I am able to keep in contact with my former students who attend Central High School and students who attend PCTA, a high school located across the street. Both schools dismiss within 15 minutes of each other, which allows me to see my former students who attend PCTA. I know I'm making a difference when students from PCTA are running towards me excited to share their grades and tell me about the clubs/teams they joined. One student in particular comes to mind, Nhachay. Last year we worked together on her promptness to class and work ethic. This year, one afternoon at dismissal, she came running from her school building eager to pull out her phone and show me her grades. She had mostly As and Bs, with one C. I'm not sure if I was more excited about her grades, or that she downloaded the phone application that allows students to monitor their academics.

What does it mean to you to have Bain Capital sponsor your team?

Our service model is based on research which states that if a student is off track in 3rd grade, and reaches 10th grade off track, they will be more likely to drop out of high school. Having Bain Capital as a team sponsor means that we can finally provide students with a continuum of support from 3rd grade through 9th grade. Since our work is data driven, we are now able to track data for students on a continuum, which will lead to improvements in our service. Many students from the middle schools we serve at feed into Central High School. With Bain Capital's sponsorship, we provide consistency for students while they transition to a new academic environment. Students see a red jacket and already know that the City Year space is a safe space. Also, we are now able to provide a new community of teachers with appreciation events to know that they are valued. Personally, having Bain Capital as a sponsor means that I am fortunate enough to continue working with my 8th graders from last year who have moved on to Central High School.

Please share a Starfish Story

Antonio is currently a 9th grader, and I worked with him last year in his 8th grade ELA class. When we began working together, he was reading at a 3rd grade level. He brought me so much joy daily with his smile and the creative ways in which he attempted to avoid work. Once the year was up and running, Antonio began working extremely hard and he started to prioritize his studies. We worked primarily on his reading fluency and reading comprehension. After winter break, he pulled out an assignment that accompanied a book we were reading and exclaimed, "Miss, I wrote all of this?" Antonio was referring to the fact that not only was his reading packet almost complete, but his answers were lengthy and well-developed. I was so thrilled to see that his work brought him excitement. I always knew he was capable, and in that moment, he believed he was capable. I used his realization to motivate him. In February, the students took their mid-year standardized assessment. I was speechless after seeing that Antonio has risen to a 5th grade reading level. By working with Antonio, I was able to work with his best friend as well; and they became positive influences on each other. I remember countless lunch intervention sessions where they would help keep each other on task. One day, his best friend said, "Eat with your left hand so you can write with your right." My mouth dropped at the ambition they exhibited. Finally, after the end of year standardized assessment, I was brought to tears seeing that Antonio had risen one more grade level, ending the year reading on a 6th grade reading level. Antonio also made me extremely proud with his poetry writing. One of our final class projects was a poem where students discussed different aspects of their identity. Antonio closed his poem with, "As I shoot the 3 and let myself free, I'm the greatest player you'll ever see. You can't watch me on tv, you have to come and see." Although Antonio is not attending the high school that I currently serve at, I am looking forward to seeing him on the basketball court as the season approaches.