Starfish Story: A Story of Making a Difference

Below, corps member Nana Otutua-Amoah tells of how she made an impact on a student at Manley Career Academy in the North Lawndale community. Give it a read. Get inspired.

Corps member Nana Otutua-Amoah works at Manley Career Academy High School is the North Lawndale community.

“A famous Ghanaian proverb says “Anomaa, oko na oba wo ha osi ne dan”.  The direct translation in English is “By going and coming, a bird weaves its nest”.  Prior to my City Year experience, this quote, like many others, was something memorized and not yet experienced.  It wasn’t till about a month ago that I realized that this quote mirrors my current state at City Year

 

My name is Nana Otutua-Amoah and I serve in the North Lawndale community. I have been in Chicago for about 13 years and I know Chicago as my home.  I am a product of the Chicago Public Schools.  I attended schools on the north side of Chicago.  My interest in City Year was heavily due to my passion of working with children.  I can truly say that thus far, my City Year experience has been very unique and continues to be a learning experience everyday.  My daily routine at Manley Career Academy involves making attendance related pone-calls, having lunch sessions with students, in-class support, and tutoring after school.  By the end of the day, I have worked with students for about 8 hours.  There are no typical days at Manley Career Academy , each day is different and brings about a different success and failure.

 At the beginning of January, all of my focus list students were failing.  This was partially because most of them also had an attendance problem.  There were two students on my list who were in school on a regular basis but NEVER finished their homework or came to after-school tutoring for help.  I decided to devote the next two weeks to them and reminding them everyday to come in for after school tutoring.  It was crunch time at Manley since report card pickup was right around the corner.  Shortly, *Alex, started taking my advice and coming regularly to tutoring.  After one week of catching up and finishing incomplete work, Alex raised his grade from an Incomplete to a Proficient (from an F to a C).  You should have seen the look in his eyes when he turned in the last assignment that gave him a C.  Alex went around the whole classroom yelling “I got a C” and “I’m passing Ms Uhl’s English class now thanks to Ms. Nana”.  That moment meant a lot to me, but I know it meant a lot more to him.  He was very proud of himself and wanted to share the good news to any and everyone.   This took place exactly a month ago.  Alex now does all his work and does not hesitate to ask for help when he needs it.  His current grade is a B in his English class.  I asked him what made him complete his work now and he simply said that because he knew it was possible for him to pass the class.  Although he does not have an A yet, I believe that me being his City Year tutor is a constant reminder of the self-motivation he should have when it comes to his work.  I constantly remind him that he made the effort to come to after school tutoring to ensure that his grades are better and that is the first step of being successful in high school. 

 Ms Uhl and I, at the end of every school day have brief conversations about students and the ways in which we can be more helpful to them.  A few days after Alex received a C in her class, we discussed other students on my focus list and how we can improve their grades.  There was a concern that had been on my mind, so I asked Ms. Uhl how she remains positive over 5 years when she does not see everyone pass her class.  I was worried because I felt like I was doing the best I could to encourage students to come in for help after or before school, but only the same students showed up.  She simply told me to celebrate the small wins and use that as a personal motivation tool so that I can be persistent in all that I do.  Alex passing this class has made me seen how effective being persistent can be.   My back and forth travel to Manley has come to mean something, something tangible and something that has encouraged me to look more into the field of education.  Although I have made various other connections with students, I cherish this tangible evidence of Alex improving in English class. 

It does not take a bird one trip to build its nest.  So, I must remind myself that it does not take one trip to Manley to encourage a student.  The bird is persistent and with numerous trips is focused on his goal.  My goal is to not give up hope for any of my students.  I hope my persistence and faith in these students encourages them to believe in themselves.”

*Student’s real name changed.

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