Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Meet Shajena!

Shajena E.
Corps Member serving at Malcolm X

Hometown: Miami, Florida

Education: Bachelors in English Literature; minors in Psychology and Religious Studies from the University of Miami

What team are you on and what do you do? I serve as a mentor, tutor, and role model on the Whole School, Whole Child Team at Malcolm X Elementary. In particular, I provide small group tutoring and one-on-one tutoring to 28 first graders, while also doing leadership lunch clubs that focus on “acts of leadership” and positive behavior. After school, I provide homework assistance with academic power hour, followed by an hour of enrichment, either through our Starfish Corps program (a mini-City Year for elementary school students) or after school clubs. Additionally, I serve as the Behavior Initiatives Point Person for my team, which means I oversee the initiatives taken by our school to decrease the number of indoor/outdoor suspensions and referrals.

Why did you join City Year and why do you serve? There’s always a moment when we are forced to think about the inevitable next step in our lives. For me, this moment came in my senior year of college, where I was faced with the reality that I was leaving behind a place that I have called home for four years. When I weighed the options of the different paths I could take post-graduation, whether it would be grad school, work, or something else, I felt something stir deep in my heart and into my soul…I knew I wanted to do something different and unconventional. I have always believed that it is the right of privilege and the educated to fight for the less fortunate and the oppressed. I wanted to do something selfless before I continued on my journey to higher education, and City Year provided the perfect avenue for it. It’s my perfect fit.

I serve because I believe in national service and in the movement that is taken place in our country. My parents weren’t born in the United States, so each time I put on my City Year jacket with the American flag on the left sleeve, I am reminded of the sacrifice my parents made for me and I am humbled and honored to be able to serve my country through the medium of education and volunteerism. What are you most excited about this year? I’m most excited to see how much my kids will grow and the kind of change that we will be able to create at Malcolm X because of City Year’s partnership with the school. I know that we are going to change lives for the better and that is inspiring!

What are you most nervous about this year? Sometimes I think about how these 28 little lives are somewhat in my hands. Their literacy scores depend very much on my ability to effectively tutor them, and that thought can be scary and intimidating. At the same time, I also know that city Year provides great infrastructure and support to us corps members and my 1st grade teacher is dynamic in her guidance!

What is something most people don’t know about you and wouldn’t guess? One of the most interesting things about me relates to a student leadership role I held as undergrad at UM. I am a big believer in diversity and social justice, and in my senior year I served as President of United Black Students. This wouldn’t be so interesting if I wasn’t a white Hispanic, but I am. It was always fun and interesting to meet with people after email exchanges and phone calls because they anticipated a certain look, and I did not fit the bill. I was very accepted in the Black community at my university, and I am still deeply humbled that I was elected as the leader for the organization in my final year of college.
I’m also small but love all sports. Most people don’t know that I enjoy extreme sports, but I love the adrenaline rush! I’ve been bungee jumping in Texas, reverse bungee jumping in South Padre Island, sandboarding down an active volcano in Nicaragua, splunking in the Appalachian caverns, white water rafting on the Nolichucky River in Tennessee, and skydiving in Miami. :)

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