Force For Good Fridays

Spotlight: Bianca Samayoa, City Year Los Angeles AmeriCorps member serving at Maya Angelou Community High School

Spotlight Bianca Samayoa City Year LA AmeriCorps

We sat down to discuss the impact and importance of City Year with Bianca Samayoa, a current AmeriCorps member serving at Maya Angelou Community High School. Bianca is a graduate of Carver Middle School where she witnessed firsthand the impact City Year makes on students in middle school and high school. She’s also a huge LAFC fan! 

Will you share a little bit about yourself?

My family is Guatemalan and my mom raised me on her own. I went to 49th Street Elementary School, Carver Middle School and Santee High School. I’ve always loved my community.

I’m very independent. I started walking home from school in the fourth grade, which is how I learned to take care of myself and trust my community. I also take care of my mom, and obviously she’s taken care of me. Through that I’ve learned to be very strong and handle things when they come my way.

Why did you choose to serve with City Year? 

In the beginning of 2017, before I started high school, I had a cousin pass away due to gang violence. That year was supposed to be big for me, but losing my cousin wasn’t something I expected. I was sad about it, but I knew I was going to be okay…however, I didn’t realize I was developing a short temper.

By the time I started my freshman year, I would get bursts of anger. That’s when I met City Year member Ms. Jenny in my algebra class. She was so patient with me. She taught me how to calm myself down and showed me alternatives when I would get upset. 

We developed a bond. I’d go to see her during lunch – we’d work on homework and she gave me life advice. Ms. Jenny helped me see that I wanted better for myself. 

That was Ms. Jenny’s last year with City Year. As hard as it was to see her go, she helped me understand that City Year itself would still be around to give me support during my high school years. Even though she wasn’t related to me, Ms. Jenny had become someone I could look up to – and that I could walk the same path as.

That’s what led me to join City Year. I’d seen their work firsthand and knew it was something worth dedicating my time to. I knew I’d serve and give back to my community by helping kids like me. It was a big opportunity to better my community and pay back what Ms. Jenny did for me when I was younger. 

What has your experience been like as a City Year AmeriCorps member? 

It’s been very eye-opening. It’s great to see how much each AmeriCorps member cares, and all the effort every member puts in by dedicating their time to the schools – coming together for the community. 

I’m grateful to have the perspective of both a student and AmeriCorps member. As a student, I saw City Year as a friend and mentor. Now as an AmeriCorps member myself, I see the behind-the-scenes work and what it takes to be a strong mentor. I enjoy coming to work every day. I appreciate the people I work with and how we bond during trainings and service days. 

City Year has provided me with amazing experiences I didn’t think I’d ever have… Did I ever think I’d get a chance to be as close as I was to Ryan Hollingshead? No! I never imagined this, but I’m so grateful. 

I’ve already seen personal growth. Bianca today compared to the Bianca who signed up to serve with City Year are two different people. City Year has given me the push I needed to grow, and hopefully it only continues!

How has City Year helped you grow as a leader and in your career journey? 

I’ve grown a lot of patience. Students find your buttons and really know how to push you, but it’s been a positive learning process. I’ve also seen how well I’ve learned to build connections with people – from my manager to my students to my partner teachers. I’ve learned to speak with others, share who I am, and work with them to create something bigger to help our communities.

What have been some of the highlights of your experience? 

Helping my students create a goal to pass their semester with good grades. And, of course, the day we had with LAFC. From meeting the players to going to the game, it’s a big moment I am super grateful for. My community where I live, my community in City Year, and my community as an LAFC fan – having it all come together was the coolest thing ever!

Why do you think it’s important to have programs like City Year? 

The community needs support. Schools and students are doing their best, but sometimes we need an extra push. City Year brings that. It uplifts schools and students. 

Everyone here in my neighborhood recognizes City Year. City Year is a big part of South Central and we’re very fortunate for that. 

What does it mean to you to have LAFC support your role as a City Year AmeriCorps member? 

It means a lot. City Year takes care of academic and social-emotional support, fostering motivation and helping them believe in themselves. And LAFC is something to look forward to – some of our students want to be professional soccer players. When students are LAFC fans, I can form a connection with them through that. It helps us bond and get work done. Having LAFC’s support helps some of the kids meet us halfway. It is a bridge to the work and impact we want to create at the schools. 

I’d like to thank you for the opportunity. These are two of my favorite things: City Year, the place where I found more of myself, and LAFC, where I enjoy going to the games and learning about soccer! This will be a core memory in my life. 

What advice do you have for someone considering joining City Year? 

When you join City Year, there may be ups and downs, and sometimes you question whether you’re making a difference. Just know that no matter what, the kids and staff members see the work you’re doing. They see you on campus in the bright yellow jacket. The neighborhood sees you. You are appreciated. 

There’s always going to be that one kid that looks up to you – that follows you, wants to talk to you, wants to know what your thoughts are. That kid will forever remember you!

If you’d like to read more about Bianca’s story and the positive impact of mentorship, click here!

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