Chelsea Mancilla, Guest Writer
City Year is an AmeriCorps program which operates in 29 cities across the U.S. and 22 states, including Seattle. I am proud to be serving in this program at Concord International Elementary School, located in the South Park community of Seattle. At the beginning of the school year, I was assigned to Mr. Tobin’s fourth grade class, where I have been assisting with the education of about 20 students. Since the school year began, I have seen students come and go because of their family’s need to relocate in pursuit of better jobs. My school has been in operation in South Park for over 100 years. South Park, located directly across from the Boeing campus, is the native land of the Duwamish people, on the western shore of the Duwamish River.
South Park is unique because it has the highest concentration of Hispanic residents in Seattle. To better serve the community, Concord created a dual-language program to serve the community’s families. Parents and guardians can enroll their children in the dual-language program, which teaches students in Spanish for half the day. Not all students in the dual-language program are able to speak Spanish. Some families embrace it as a way for their children to receive cultural and linguistic enrichment. Since I do not speak Spanish, I was assigned to an English-speaking classroom.
When I began working with City Year, my commute was from Lacey to Seattle. Traveling so far daily was expensive, so to save money, I took advantage of the ORCA bus pass that City Year provided to all corps members. With the ORCA card in hand, I would drive to Lakewood, ride the Sounder train – which took approximately an hour to reach Tukwila, where I caught my first bus at 6:08 a.m. to 14th and Marginal Way in Seattle. From there, I would take a second bus which was less than 15 minutes to reach a bus stop that was another 7 minutes from my school. To make this routine work, I woke up at exactly 4 a.m. every day. It was a grueling experience until I found an apartment only 9 minutes from my school in December. My previous commute gave me a lot of time to think, read, and cry.
There’s a quote that says, “It isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey.” Well that quote took on an entirely different meaning for me, as I traveled daily for four hours daily. The destination became much more important to me, because that is where my supportive team and enchanting students were. On Team Concord, I am the only native Washingtonian, as many members of my team are originally from California. They become excited when it rains, and even the slightest snowfall we had earlier in January was a thrill for them. One team member had asked me if Washington had volcanoes, and was amazed to learn we had more than one. Even when the days get tough, I have teammates I can count on to make me laugh and who will support me no matter what.
As the days go by, I have begun thinking about my next steps. At City Year, this is known as LACY (Life After City Year). Corps members take one of three routes; return to City Year for a second year, find a new job, or re-enter higher education. I have contemplated all three routes. At the beginning of the year, I strongly believed that I would never become a teacher, but that has changed in the past month. My students are so important to me, and I would like the opportunity to teach my own class someday. Does that mean I should apply to a Master’s program next year, or should I do a second year at City Year?
Recently my students have started asking, “Are you coming back next year?” Some of them would even add that they would like to see me again. Until they say it out loud, I question whether or not my students find me even slightly likable. Every word or small gift they have given me is something I cherish through the tough days. Whether or not I become a teacher, I will always remember my first class at Concord International Elementary, and the first class I ever taught.