City Year Experience

City Year Experience

Camille Schmitt and her City Year Volunteer Experience

Trinity’s Camille Schmitt is serving as a City Year Corps member, and has been since July 2011.

Why City Year? One million students drop out of school each year, and half of those dropouts come from just 12 percent of schools. City Year’s long-term impact strategy challenges the status quo, dramatically increasing the graduation rates, and transforming thousands of students in America. Its goal is to ensure 80% of the students in the schools City Year serves reach 10th grade on track, and on time. It also serves the majority of at-risk students in the locations where City Year serves. You can learn more at

Camille’s 11-month assignment takes place in New York City Public School 171Q’s third grade Special Ed and General ED classroom, proving in-class support, math and English intervention, and behavior and attendance coaching. After school, she runs kindergarten ESL, Kindergarten Dance, and 4th Grade Leadership. She will complete her term on June 6th.

Here’s an excerpt from a letter Camille recently sent Trinity. Her experience, in her own words:

Why do I do this? This is a question I think in my head, daily, as the phone starts to sing “Boyfriend” – letting me know that it’s time to start another day. As I wash my face and put on my uniform, I think about how easy it would be to slip back into that warm bed and get the extra hours of sleep that my body is craving so badly. As I stand with my three jackets, two pairs of socks, two sets of gloves, a hat and a scarf wrapped around me tight, waiting for a bus in a climate I’m not used to, this same questions pops into my head. When I finally get to school and I start to look over the enormous pile of things I am supposed to accomplish and the list I have on my desk of things I need to do today, I continue to think: Why do I do this? Why do I do this? Why do I do this?

I don’t get paid to do this. I’m not getting college credits. I naturally wake up at 5:30 a.m. now. My night life generally consists of writing math problems into notebooks. I live 2,906 miles away from the people that love and support me most. I stay awake some nights, tormented by the lives my students are living. I take a bus to work. And at the end of most days, crying seems like a pretty reasonable option. Why would anyone continue living this way, I wonder.

And then, like clockwork, at 7:30 a door is open to the cafeteria, and a little 8-year-old boy trots in with a bright green backpack and a black bag filled with Takis in his hands. His blue coat is zipped all the way up so that all you can see is the top of his nose and his eyes. As I remind him to take his hoot and hat off, the answer to that question I’ve been asking myself all morning is answered: He is the reason I do this. These reminders continue to pop up throughout the day.

I do this because if I wasn’t here, an autistic boy wouldn’t be able to escape a chaotic classroom And if I wasn’t there, my students would be spending a lot more time in the principal’s office, and a lot less time learning. If I wasn’t there, one of my students wouldn’t be able to tell me his two-times tables that I had him memorize over the weekend, and I wouldn’t get to hear those words you know he has desperately waited to hear: “I’m so proud of you.” If I wasn’t there, there would be no one to sit next to the kid who has so much potential, but who everyone has given up on because he just won’t try.

Throughout the day, I am reminded constantly that I do this because without me, there is a hole in these children’s lives that they didn’t know existed before. I do this because of these amazing children, who deserve so much more than they have. They are eight and nine years old, and some of their futures feel like they are already set in stone. But I am there to keep driving into their brains and make them understand that is not true. Those thirty children are what keep me going. They are what inspire me to do better, and to be better. They are why I do this.

– Camille Schmitt