Member Spotlight: City Year

City Year Service Leader Margarita Rios tells us about her experience serving as an AmeriCorps member and what motivates her to continue her service for a second year.

Why did you decide to join City Year Dallas?

I decided to join City Year because I was fortunate enough to have the support to take on this opportunity. When a City Year recruiter spoke in my class at the University of North Texas, I was at a point when I didn’t know where I could take my desire to positively influence and support people. The recruiter painted a beautiful picture of how I could be a part of a huge change in the educational system. After speaking with him, I knew a future with City Year was something I wanted to pursue.

What was it like serving in AmeriCorps?

My experience as an AmeriCorps member was one full of growth, learning, and self-discovery. This is not easy because if it were easy, I wouldn’t have been giving my all. I met students with different stories but similar experiences, some with which I could relate, and some with which I had no experience. I knew the importance of being an adult figure – to listen and give students the space to feel without judgment – because I know I could’ve used that during my childhood. Hearing heartbreaking stories never got easy, but when my time with my students came to an end and I was showered with kind words, tears, hugs, and letters, I knew it was all worth it. I will never forget the opportunity City Year gave me and the beautiful students I had the privilege of helping guide. I will continue to be a proud AmeriCorps member and alum.

Please share a story of a student that had a particularly strong impact on you.  

I had the privilege of working with bright and strong young minds during my first year of service, and through it all, I learned just as much from my students as they hopefully learned from me. One student in particular, Yami, became my ray of sunshine that put me in the best mood every morning. We started off on the wrong foot when I was asked by my teacher to facilitate a team building exercise for the class on the first day. During my explanation of the activity, Yami proceeded to talk. I had to ask her to quiet down, which led me to explain why it was disrespectful to talk while I was instructing. This gave me the impression that I was going to have some trouble with her for the rest of the year, but never again did I have any issues involving disrespect. Over a few weeks of really taking the time to talk with her, I was able to bond with her, and she soon became one of my favorite students for meaningful conversations. We were able to bond over our background, and although my upbringing was very different from hers, she knew I was always there to listen and reassure her that the cards she has been dealt do not define her potential. She also became the student that kept her classmates on track when we did group work. I have never worked with such a curious and kindhearted young person, and I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to be part of her growth.

Why did you choose to return and serve a second year with City Year Dallas as a Service Leader?

I decided to serve a second year because I believe City Year provided me with many growing opportunities and a space in which I could be my true authentic self. I continue to feel welcome and excited to come to work every day because of the people with whom I work.

To what are you most looking forward this upcoming school year?

I am most looking forward to growing as a leader and hopefully continuing my career in nonprofits. I don’t know where I’ll be after this year of service, but I am committed to making this year meaningful for myself and my team.

About City Year

City Year is an education-focused nonprofit that partners with schools to help bridge the gap between what urban public schools provide and what students need to succeed. In Dallas, we do this by providing diverse, talented, and trained young adult mentors and role models who work alongside teachers fulltime in 11 Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD) schools.