Thursday, November 5, 2009

Meet Michelle!

Michelle W.
Corps Member serving on H.O.P.E

Hometown: Andover, Massachusetts

Education: High school graduate

What team are you on and what do you do? I serve on the HOPE team, or the HIV Outreach, Prevention and Education team. My team’s primary service is teaching a 10-module CDS approved curriculum to about 3,500 middle school students in D.C. public schools. The Making Proud Choices! curriculum focuses on HIV and STI prevention, safer sex methods, avoiding drug use and unplanned pregnancy and building negotiation and decision making skills. HOPE team is also engaged in various externships, street outreach, providing testing services and participating in HIV related events throughout the D.C. community.

Why did you join City Year and why do you serve? I knew I wanted to join City Year beginning my sophomore year of high school, but almost until the end I was too afraid to. I knew I was passionate about education reform, dead-set in the idea that if we can teach our youth to be critical thinkers and if we can provide them with the opportunities education affords, then they will grow up to create then they will grow up to create change in our world in all the areas that need mending. I was always sure my path would lead me to working with others, but as I neared the end of high school with an acceptance to my first choice college and 18 years of successfully following the path laid out for me, it was hard to envision myself suddenly shifting gears.
Around that time, I read about a study that tested stress in mice. Two mice were each given a wheel to run on. Mouse A could run whenever it wanted, but mouse B could only run when mouse A chose to run. Overtime, mouse B showed brain deterioration from stress. It hit me then that I had always been mouse B, running when I was supposed to. Sometimes, it worked out that I actually wanted to run when mouse A did, but the problem was the lack of choice.
I know I’ll always be an academic at heart, but I don’t want that to be all there is to me. College can wait a year; choosing my own path in life can’t. I always knew I wanted to end up here and perhaps even needed to – needed to serve to learn, to understand my story by immersing myself in those of others – but I was starting to worry that I never would. And then, when it came time last spring to make a decision, all I could think of was, if not now, then when?

What are you most excited about this year? What I’m looking forward to most about this year is having the opportunity to both teach and learn from the young people I’m working with.

What are you most nervous about this year? I’m most nervous about finding my place in such a diverse community, where I’m able to both learn from the experiences and stories of others and be confident in who I am and accepting of my past.

What is something most people don’t know about you and wouldn’t guess? My iPod is comprised mostly of a lot of classic rock, a bunch of early punk (particularly The Clash), and an almost ridiculous amount of Bob Dylan.

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