As many of you know, nearly five years ago I began my journey here at Citizen Schools. Having grown up in the backwoods of Vermont, I was not exactly accustomed to life in the inner city. I was not sure what to expect from the students, or from myself in trying to help them.
One of the very first students I met at Citizen Schools was Asia. It was kind of hard to not meet her, really. Asia had a commanding presence, and not always in a good way either. She had a quick temper and was not afraid to tell you when she thought something you were saying was wrong, or worse, boring! Fortunately, Asia had a very loving foster mom (Merna) at home. Her mom shared with me the challenges she had encountered with Asia, but also shared how much she cared for her and wanted the best for her future.
As the year progressed, glimmers of hope started to emerge. Asia was always quick to participate, whether we were talking about how to write a persuasive essay or the benefits of a college education. When it came time to apply to high school, we hit a crossroads: her mother and I wanted her to go to a small, academically rigorous high school while Asia wanted to go to a large high school in the hopes of exercising her social skills. Fortunately, our cause won out and Asia has been attending a remarkably successful college prep high school for the past four years.
Where I saw Asia’s passion truly come alive was during a ten-week social justice apprenticeship entitled “Need Some Change”. After completing a volunteer project at a local halfway house, we connected Asia to The City School, a local youth organization that engages young people in advocacy work across the city. For the past four years, Asia has served as a peer leader for other young people in Boston, helping point them down the right path.
Only through Citizen Schools’ support would Asia’s story be possible. The support she received at home, coupled with a strong college-prep high school and the positive group of peers she found at the City School, has enabled her to flourish. Last spring, I learned that Asia had been award the prestigious Christian Herter Scholarship, which provides four-year, 50% scholarships to any college in state of Massachusetts. (She's applied to 12 in all!) With this next giant step forward, Asia is living proof that urban students can compete at the very highest levels of education if they are given the support and encouragement they need.
I can’t tell you how much it moves me to see Asia realize her potential. However, the story does not end with Asia. Each year, Citizen Schools serves 4400 students in 37 schools across the country. We cannot do this work alone!
This is my final year with Citizen Schools as I move on to seek a career in guidance counseling. These past five years have been life-changing for me, and more importantly, for students like Asia. In order for us to keep changing lives, we need your help! Your gift of $10, $20, or $50 will help ensure that students like Asia have a fighting chance.
Thank you all for your continued love and support.