Each semester, AmeriCorps’ Project MARS collects ‘Great Stories’ from each of our members—entries where they reflect on their experiences mentoring in the classroom and the progress that they see students making. This month’s story comes from Torrean Smith..
It all started with a desire to do more, to want more, to not just stand idly by as our future leaders didn’t have a positive influence in their lives. After I left my job in Greenville, I took a risk and moved to Asheville to try my hand here. I was welcomed with open arms at Francine Delany. At the time, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Coming into the position, I was hearing so much about the one before me (and I met the guy—he’s pretty awesome) and I was immediately feeling the pressure of filling the shoes of someone else, especially when he meant a great deal to the lives of so many people. Still, I rose to the challenge and couldn’t wait to meet the students.
Some of them warmed up to me immediately, while it took others a few weeks—but it was worth it. As I started to form bonds with them I noticed how they were starting to change my life and I could see that I was changing theirs too. I remember thinking: “There is NO WAY I could leave these guys!” And that’s when I decided to stay on with AmeriCorps for a second year, but I didn’t tell them, so I also decided to tell them that I wasn’t going to return and I dragged it out until the end of summer camp (it was the greatest and yet most cruel joke ever).
All summer long, I was itching to see these kids again because that’s how much I had fallen in love with them. It’s funny when I talk to other adults and when they hear me say that about a bunch of middle schoolers they think I’m out of my mind, but no: these are a special group of people.
Fast-forwarding to their first day of school, I was imagining what their faces would look like once they saw me—or would they be mad that I played a joke on them like that? It turns out that some of them liked my joke, and many others cried happy/angry tears. I remember showing up on the first day for a site visit. My heart poured out with joy, but my face was calm. When I broke the news to them that I would be staying for the entire year, the pure joy from them was the greatest thing I’ve ever heard. To me, it was one of the most rewarding things ever because it let me know that they wanted me around. It also let’s me know that I’m doing something right, that I am making a difference in the lives of the youth around me.
The first year was a great year I will say, but I wanted to step it up, I wanted more for them. I wanted more for myself, if anything I expected more of myself. I stepped it up this year by doing other things by introducing a trivia game for the kiddos called T-Rivia, which was awesome. I went above and beyond to make sure the middle schoolers knew they had someone they could come to someone to talk to about anything and that they could trust, and they did on many occasions, sure it was mentally and physically exhausting, but I would do it all again for them.
I’m thankful for the chance that Buffy and FDNSC gave me the past two years. It was a pleasure for me to serve the students and work alongside the staff. I will forever cherish the many memories I made with the students from the many games of basketball, tag, and my favorite memory of all performing “Beat It” in front of the entire school – that was incredible.
I’ve climbed to the peak of this mountain of this service year, I don’t know all that lies ahead, but I am ready to conquer i