Giving: Sabrina Mosley, Former Student of Linden McKinley STEM Academy, Joined City Year Columbus to Pay it Forward

The former AmeriCorps volunteer, now staff member, helps students at the school she once attended.

Tatyana Tandanpolie
Sabrina Mosley

Sabrina Mosley fans her face with her fingers spread wide, attempting to dry the tears welling in her eyes. 

“You’re gonna make me cry, that’s how passionate I am,” the 24-year-old says, choking up at the thought of serving the Linden community she grew up in and the students at her alma mater, Linden McKinley STEM Academy. Her afro puff sits high on her head as she composes herself, turning back to her computer screen and lowering her hands. 

“I can talk about how the city has put me in programs that not only helped me build me as a person, but also build a community,” she says. “And I want to keep giving that back.” 

That desire is what motivated Mosley to apply for the 2020-21 school year to be an AmeriCorps volunteer for City Year Columbus, the Central Ohio branch of the national service program that partners members with Columbus City Schools to support students academically and emotionally. She was one of 62 fielded members ages 18 to 25 who committed 11 months to the district full time and received a $720 bi-weekly stipend and benefits. 

After the program matched her with Mifflin High School English teacher Cheryl Cowen, Mosley planned lessons for Cowen’s five ninth and 12th grade classes, creating curriculum-based games to engage students online during the pandemic and arranging one-on-one sessions with them after in-person classes resumed. She says the social-emotional learning activities she developed would have helped her in school. 

“Some school experiences are, ‘I went to class, we wrote some stuff down, and that was it,’” Moseley says. “But when you have City Year in your space, you can really feel emotional development, social development; you interact with others better, and I love that.” 

Mosley also counseled students through difficult situations, Cowen says, and steered them toward realistic career paths and life goals. 

“You can see she really cared about each individual student,” Cowen says. 

But for Mosley, who joined City Year’s staff as a team leader at Linden McKinley after completing the corps program in June, caring for the students who fill the seats she once did is paying it forward. When she attended Columbus City Schools, “her” City Years, fitted in bright red track jackets, helped her navigate stress, social pressure and schoolwork while she was living “well below the poverty line.” From third to 10th grade, they gave her the motivation and confidence to keep going, she says, and pushed her to be a more diligent student in preparation for college. 

As her students work through financial hardship and regularly mourn the loss of family, friends and classmates to neighborhood and police violence, Mosley says her aim is to help them cope by listening, sitting with them or giving them a space to cry—offering the attention that their community and youth, historically, haven’t received. 

“The goal of my job is to show [students] … that good things come from the Linden community,” she says. “I believe the happier you are, and the more you appreciate your community, that rubs off—it expands out—and people are gonna want to do more. Even if it’s a little bit per person, that little bit adds up.” 

"When you have City Year in your space, you can really feel emotional development, social development; you interact with others better, and I love that.” 

This story is from the 2022 issue of Giving, a supplement of Columbus Monthly and Columbus CEO.