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City Year Corps Member of the Month - February: Chelsea Valentino

02.28.17

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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 - February: Chelsea Valentino

Name: Chelsea Valentino

Hometown: Oxford, Massachusetts

School serving: Henry Grew Elementary School, Boston

What made you decide to join City Year?

I ultimately decided to join City Year during my senior year of college. I had started applications to a few graduate school programs, but none of them really caught my eye the way City Year did. I had been considering taking a gap year between college and graduate school, and I remembered seeing the red jackets walking from the train station every morning when I studied in Boston. I looked up City Year, and it seemed like the perfect choice for me. Within a few weeks, I had applied to City Year Boston. Because I grew up outside of the city, I wanted to give a year back to the city that had given me so much while I was growing up. Boston has always been a second home to me, and I could think of no better way to spend my gap year than living and serving in Boston.

Why are you committed to serving with City Year?

I am committed to serving with City Year 100% because of my students. I had come from being a camp counselor for a few months each year and volunteering at a YMCA during college, and suddenly found myself serving 10 hours a day and being committed for 10 months of service. The students at the Grew School deserve so much more than me, but they still welcome me with open arms whenever I walk into the classroom each day, especially after the weekend and we've been apart for three days. When I'm not at school, the students always ask me where I was, and I enjoy being able to form that bond with them and be another caring adult in the building that they can talk to. I'm committed to serving these students to the best of my ability and coming to service each day as my best self.

How do you know you are making a difference?

I know I'm making a difference when I see the lightbulb go off when working with a student one-on-one or in a small group. Seeing a student understand the plot of a book for the first time or solving a complicated math problem on their own is the best joy that I have ever known. I am currently serving in a fourth grade classroom comprised of 15 bright, intelligent, hilarious and unique students. Seeing how they've grown so tremendously both academically and personally over the past five months, and knowing that they will continue to flourish over the next five, is what keeps me coming to service every day.

What does it mean to you to have Bain Capital sponsor your team? Having Bain Capital as our team sponsor helps us to bring more experience and energy to our service each and every day. Bain Capital has, and continues to be, such a great source of energy, encouragement and man power to many of our initiatives at the Grew. We have Read Across America Day coming up in March, and some of our volunteers are going to be coming from Bain Capital, which will allow us to be in every classroom at the Grew, all the way from K1-Grade 5. We know that, if we ever need manpower or materials, we can count on having Bain Capital in our corner.

Please share a Starfish Story.

Jordan* is a fast-talking, always-standing, rhyme-making, pencil-tapping student that can get any class off track quickly with his existential questions. Or, he can be the student that knits a whole classroom of 15 students with completely different personalities into one functioning, well-oiled machine. Many of my days in the beginning of the year consisted of these two sentences: "Jordan, sit down", and "Jordan, get back to work, bud." What I couldn't always see was that his near constant motion and talking was him working through difficult math problems or brainstorming for his poetry assignment in his own way. I finally saw all of this come together one day in science class shortly after coming back from winter break. Jordan was in a group with two of his friends, Michael* and Adam*, which was both a blessing and a curse. They came up with truly innovative ways to answer each day's focus question, often discussing answers while standing up or tapping their pencils to beats that only they know. The fourth graders at the Grew School are currently working on an energy unit, and this day's specific energy was electricity. Both Michael and Adam were absent, so I sat down with Jordan and we answered the questions together, looking forward to getting our hardware to begin our hands-on experiment to get two lightbulbs lit with only one power source (a D-cell battery). It's been a long time since I did any sort of energy work, but Jordan had been working on this in his mind for days. He showed me a drawing that I had seen him sketching on the side of his work in math a few days prior. This drawing, Jordan said, was the key to getting both lightbulbs lit. Jordan eagerly showed me his drawing, explaining to me: "Ms. Chelsea, it can't be a parallel circuit, cause then one light will be brighter than the other. It has to be a series circuit, then all of the energy will flow in a circle, like this see?" With that, we got to work; and by 'we', I mean Jordan. He simply talked me through his process, and was giving me an insight into how his mind worked. I suddenly understood how everything Jordan was doing in class, though it may seem like he was distracted, was helping him finish an assignment, whether or not it was for the class we were currently sitting in or not. I gained a better understanding of Jordan that day, and now my questions aren't about asking him to sit down it is asking him "Jordan, what are we working on today? How can I help?"

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