Inspiration is a catalyst that moves individuals to stand up for something they believe in, to make a difference, or to simply keep going. At City Year, the most inspirational moments are often those that reveal the sometimes unexpected ways in which we have impacted the students and the communities we serve. Below, senior corps member Lilah Rossi, team leader at the Harbor School, shares a particularly Inspiring Moment from her corps year in Miami, Florida.
Last year, I had the unique experience of being a Boston native who chose to serve my corps year at City Year Miami. There, I spent 10 months in a community called Liberty City at Lenora B. Smith Elementary School. One of the most exciting initiatives that my team implemented at the school was our extended day program, Starfish Corps.
During one particular Starfish Corps unit, we talked a lot about different stress relievers and anger management. One method that we taught the students to employ to when they felt angry and wanted to fight consisted of a breathing technique. The technique we practiced with them involved making their right hand into a fist that holds an imaginary flower and inhaling as they pretended to sniff it. In their left hand, they would hold an imaginary candle that they would then pretend to blow out with an exhale.
One afternoon, after the program had ended for the day, I was outside with Darryl*, a child who had difficulty managing his anger and who fought constantly with other students. He was playing around with one of the other students when he started to get mad because the other student, intending to be playful, had hit him. He wanted to attack back, but I told him not to. He was angry and clenched his fists and I asked him to not do that. He unclenched them, but when I turned to look at him again, I saw that his fists were re-clenched. I looked at him sternly and asked him why he was still clenching his fists, and his response was: “Ms. Lilah, I’m not!” He followed up by demonstrating the inhaling of the “flower” and exhaling of the “candle,” the technique we had taught him just the other day.
As you can imagine, I was so impressed that this normally frustrated young boy was using one of our techniques. It is something that I hope he continues to use, especially to help keep him from getting into fights. It was one of the most inspiring moments of the year for me; it was then that I realized that our students had really been listening to us and were trying to work to change their behavior.
*Names have been changed to protect student privacy.