Name: Alyssa Flores
School Serving: San Jose
Hometown: Stockton, CA
What made you join City Year?
I attended a workshop called "Is the Gap Year Right for You?" at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where I was working towards a BA degree in Psychology. Through this workshop, I was able to learn all about Gap Year opportunities available in Silicon Valley, and I was particularly intrigued by City Year. After several in-depth conversations with the City Year San Jose local recruiter, I knew this program was where I wanted to contribute my time.
Why are you committed to City Year?
I am committed to serving with City Year because I believe in the power of mentorship and the difference one person can make in a community. City Year strongly believes in empathy which is a value I really connect to. That's when I knew this was right for me.
I often think back to my 4th grade teacher; she was someone who always encouraged me to complete my work. I wasn't always focused in elementary school, but she helped guide me to love school and love learning. Who she was to me is who I want to be to my students. I am trying to provide the children in the Alum Rock School District with a positive environment to thrive in and to expose them to new opportunities in an inclusive after school program.
How do you know you are making a difference?
I know I'm making a difference when my students run up to me with a big smile and give me a huge hug. Just being here in this City Year classroom, I'm able to provide a safe place for love, mentorship and instruction which has makes a significant impact on both the students and the community. When I see students utilize the skills we have taught them in our social emotional learning lessons and when I'm leading a club about jelly fish and they ask a billion questions, I know I am helping them broaden their education experience. On my way home after a day of service, I often reflect on my favorite part of the day was and it is so hard to pick just one because my students make every day amazing. I can only hope that I am doing the same for them.
What does it mean to you to have Bain Capital sponsor your team?
The support that Bain Capital provides City Year makes it possible for me to serve and reach the students who need City Year the most. Bain Capital shows us support throughout the year and we are truly grateful. Just this past week we were sent a catered lunch which makes it possible for the team to have the energy we need to serve our students 11 hours a day, five days a week! We are also looking forward to visiting the Bain Capital office in San Francisco to take part in a professional development workshop with the employees there. I haven't had a chance to review my resume or brush up on my personal branding so it will be great to have a designated time to focus on my LACY plans and receive feedback from the Bain Capital team.
Please share a Starfish Story.
The very first day of service I met a 1st grader named Christina who has always had a challenge regulating her emotions. Here in East Side San Jose, many families in the neighborhood are often working two or three jobs to make ends meet. Christina doesn't see her parents very much and spends most of her time with her babysitter. For her, this produces feelings of sadness and anger and I've watched her struggle to deal with those emotions.
When I first worked with her, she didn't want to be at school at all and was never excited to spend time with the AmeriCorps team. Now, after having worked with her each day, Monday through Friday, for the past five months, I am excited to share that she has become motivated to learn and is using the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) techniques that we teach her. Some of the SEL techniques that we've taught our students are breathing, creating a safe space, learning what emotions are and advocating for yourself when experiencing emotions that you are still learning how to regulate. Christina now makes her own safe space to take time for herself when she is angry or crying. Many of our students do not have access to learning these SEL skills during the school day but we are able to provide them in our after school space.
We've also noticed Christina now loves to be in the classroom and wants to be the last to go home every evening. She is often sad when her babysitter picks her up to take her home. I think she is so sad because we are able to provide the love and attention that she needs and deserves.
In addition to regulating emotions we also teach lessons on how to interact with classmates by being a good friend, being kind and learning how to interact with others. This gives our students a voices and prevents them from ending up in high school without basic social interaction skills. Empathy, teamwork, emotion regulation, compassion, advocating for oneself - I'm really glad to teach Christina these life lessons at such a young age so that she knows what works best for her as she continues on her life journey. The relationship that I have with Christina is why I'm thankful for the experience with City Year.