Why I Serve – Emmanuel Paul Sterling

With an edgy hair cut, standing at over 6 feet tall and an undeniable air of confidence about him, one would imagine that 22-year old Emmanuel Paul Sterling enjoys being the center of attention. He doesn’t. A graduate of Wooster College in Ohio, Emmanuel studied Studio Arts, Photography and Imaging and he prefers to be the one who works from behind the scenes. Nonetheless, when he was asked to co-host the Opening Day ceremony for the 2007 – 2008 corps a few months ago, in front of corporate sponsors, political figureheads and his peers, he did so with ease. “I saw it as an opportunity to fine tune the skills that I already have and it started the journey of filling my boots,” he says. The journey has been an exciting one thus far which has been driven by his passion to do the work with excellence. Over the past three months, Emmanuel has fully immersed himself in the experience of being a corps member. As part of the Alcoa Team serving PS 48 in the Huntspoint section of the Bronx, Emmanuel is usually up at 5am working on a Bringing Books to Life lesson plan or pondering what more he could be doing to improve the service that he provides. “It is important that little people have positive role models in their lives; someone encouraging them, motivating them, pushing them to be the best they can be. I do it because I love those kids.”

Emmanuel, who is a native of Vacherie, LA, first heard about City Year New York from an alumna and was even further drawn in after reviewing information on the web. The idea of living in New York was appealing to him but what drew him in the most was his passion for working with children and the understanding that by committing to doing full time service over ten months, he would be gaining the tools to help him grow as a professional. He admits that he was initially challenged by the idea of working on a team where majority of members are younger than he is and oftentimes he has to remind himself that regardless of the differences in age or whatever else, the most important connection that the team shares is that of making the lives of children better, “I appreciate the diversity of my team. We’ve been able to bond so well in such a short amount of time. I appreciate my teammates supporting me and offering varying insight on my ideas.”

Besides being a member of the recruitment outreach coordinator team, the budding fashion ingénue, holds down a part-time gig at a well-known clothing boutique, has plans to intern at a fashion magazine after his year of service and wants to launch his own nonprofit focused on HIV and AIDS awareness. Although his long days often spill into long evenings as he juggles responsibilities and his future aspirations, he seems to be chock full of energy and works to be inspired while being an inspiration. “I feel like everyday my job is incomplete. I go home and think, ‘What can I do to make Ahemet – an Arabic-speaking student in my 2nd grade class feel like she’s a part of the group when everyone speaks a different language?’ Or ‘What can I do to make John, the kid whose parents can never make it to a parent engagement event feel like its ok?’ I recognize that I’m making a difference in each and every child’s life that I come in to contact with. Everyday is a good day for me.”