This past school year I learned a lot! I volunteered as a group facilitator with a non profit organization, City Year Detroit. City Year is an Americorps program comprised of young adults (18-25 year olds) who dedicate one year to serving full time as tutors, mentors and roll models to students in seven schools in Detroit. No doubt our Detroit city schools are in need of the services the City Year Corps members provide. Their roles are both unique to the educational system and invaluable. These young adults are passionate about education. They are altruistic and multi faceted with their own ideals and world views. Their work both in and out of the classroom often creates an intimate relationship between the Corps members and the student. These young adults are faced with the challenging reality that the students are coming to school with often times situations in the home and in the school system that are both complicated, and traumatic. Corps members train to begin City Year in the summer and leave the following Spring, changed.
There were seventy one City Year members this school year. Seven teams served seven schools in Detroit. After meeting with the executive director Andrew Stein and Brian Kilkelly director of Learning and Development we felt there was a strong need for Corps members to have auxiliary support for the daily trauma they themselves were experiencing working so closely with underprivileged students in our urban city schools. While there are opportunities and outlets for support, group process offers each team a safe and confidential space to share and express their feelings about their experiences and needs in a supportive non judgmental environment with a professional.
This was the first year Group Process was implemented here in Detroit. I have to admit I was nervous. My skills as a group facilitator were going to be challenged. I was going to be stretched! Each Corp member and each team brought their own set of issues, challenges, needs and experiences to our hour long meetings. Some Corps members who while tenuous and skeptic about group process initially, resonated deeply with the experience over time. Others, were not at all interested. It was tough to read their needs, and important to establish an atmosphere of trust. But that is what group facilitating is all about. There was conflict and there was passion. There were tears and there was joy. There was love and friendship. And now the Corp members are getting ready to leave….to graduate. And they are processing that passage. I feel privileged to have witnessed their journey.
All across the country other City Year sites are looking to hear about how group process has impacted our Corps members. I came to City Year really not knowing what to expect. I will soon complete this school year with my eyes opened to the true nature of the problems that exist in our urban city schools and a deep respect and admiration for the dedicated millennials who want to make a difference. I too changed.
Kate K. Smith, MA, LLP, is a therapist at Birmingham Maple Clinic specializing in Anxiety & Panic, Depression, Grief and Loss, Eating Disorders, Substance Abuse, and Trauma. Click here to learn more about Kate and schedule an appointment!