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A global pandemic motivates Team Leader Dia Vang to fight for change

City Year Milwaukee AmeriCorps members volunteer with Running Rebels

In August, City Year Milwaukee volunteered with Running Rebels to fill over 75 backpacks with school supplies and hygiene products.

On March 13, Governor Evers mandated a statewide school closure. Hearing this news broke me. The school closure meant the possibility of never seeing our students again and not being able to close relationships with them. It also meant the cancellation of events my team and I planned and were looking forward to plan for our students. Since August, I looked forward to watching the eighth-grade students, who I served last year, strut across the stage in their best attire. But, due to Covid-19, graduation has been cancelled.

Serving during a global pandemic

Working from home has been an adjustment. I enjoy the various virtual sessions and independent activities AmeriCorps members can participate in to earn service hours. However, I would rather be with my team making a positive impact on students and James Madison Academic Campus.

Every day, I wonder, “How are students doing? How do students access internet and laptops? And what happens if they do not have access to either? If students can do schoolwork at home, are they getting the support they need? What does the 2020-2021 school year look like? How will students acquire the skills they missed during the last couple months of school?”

Some students do not have internet or computer access, and some struggle with reading; therefore, they are not able to do the work. With parents and guardians at work, students may not have an adult at home to help them with their work.

Now that students have less support than they did while in school, it pushes me to continue to fight for equitable educational rights for our students and to continue to advocate for their needs, so that they can be successful scholars.

Not only will I continue to fight for our students but also my community. The pandemic has brought significant inequalities to the forefront, including the fact that African Americans are dying at disproportional rates due to health disparities; there has been increased racism towards Asians; and there are inadequate shelters for those experiencing homelessness and lack of access to clean water. With the crisis at hand and injustices still prevailing, it goes to show that now more than ever change needs to happen and more support is essential for those in need.

During this time, I have been reflecting on how I can use my privileges and skills to continue serving my community. I have also been researching groups and organizations to be involved with in making social change. I am not exactly sure on what my role looks like in being a part of social change, but some of the things I am passionate about are closing the school-to-prison pipeline, ending the cycle of domestic and sexual violence and having more conversations about race and gender inequality.

During this time, Riverwest Public House and other community members who opened a pop-up food pantry for those in need inspires me to continue serving. Sometimes creating change can be discouraging, but I am encouraged and motivated by Fred Kaems “We are in this together” mural. It brings me great joy to be part of a community that truly cares for others. Through all this, I am FIRED UP to continue making a difference in the lives of others.

Check out our Instagram page and website to learn how you can support City Year in building strong leaders for our students and community.

City Year Milwaukee Team Leader, DiaAbout the author: Dia Vang proudly serves as a City Year Milwaukee team leader and is a proud alum of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. When asked why she serves, Dia said, “I serve to advocate for students, to build young people as leaders and to be a part of social change in the city I grew up. When I was younger, a community organization made an influential impact on my growth as a person. I want to provide a similar impact and create a safe environment for students and young people to feel valued and heard.”

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