River Deep, Mountain High

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 08 2012

On the Shoulders of Giants (I Was Just Potential)

At my high school graduation, I referenced Sir Isaac Newton’s quote: “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Six years later, I’ve found that one of my favorite City Year Founding Stories is the “Shoulders of Giants.

A couple weeks ago, I was inspired by Michelle Obama’s DNC speech and the Opportunity Nation Summit to write the following poem. The poem written below is in honor of mentorship.  Mentorship provides additional support that is mission critical to the success of all students. Now that I’m at City Year, I’m excited to lead a team of 12 young adults who are dedicated to keeping students in school and on track to graduate primarily through academic and behavior coaching. In times of increasing test prep and standardization, mentors play an even more important role of ensuring the children are educated holistically, and that they grow up to be informed, caring citizens.


Once, I was just potential

When I was at a younger age.

Then someone took an interest

And helped me turn the page.


When I taught down in the Delta, I often had deep thoughts:

“I didn’t work this hard to be unappreciated nor to be paid diddly squat!”

“I don’t subscribe to gangsta; I do not do thug life.

What on Earth did I do wrong to deserve such crazy strife?”


But then I read my writing from when I was a teen;

It made me question how I got this far, and what had happened in between.


I was encouraged by my mentors and coaches: “one can be both smart and fast!”

I was influenced by my diverse mix of friends, of present and of past.

I was raised well by my family, who made me do my best.

I was inspired by my teachers, who taught beyond the test.


I wrote those lines in the passive voice, but there can be no doubt.

Actively ensuring opportunity for all is what I’m passionate about.


When I became a teacher, I held kids’ futures in my hands

It wasn’t always pretty, especially when they messed up my plans!

But I learned things from my students, just as they did learn from me.

ALL kids can be successful,

They need to know it, own it, SEE!


Once, I was just potential

When I was at a younger age.

Now I strive to pay it forward.

I live to turn the page.


Anthony Britt is a City Year Boston Program Manager. This post represents his own perspective and not necessarily those of City Year or AmeriCorps.

4 Responses

  1. well done, my friend.

  2. Good blog post, nice efforts. It couldn’t appear to have been penned any better. Reading this article piece of writing reminds me about my old boss! He usually kept babbling about this. I will email this post to him. Pretty confident he will probably have a high-quality read. Appreciate your posting!

  3. Holly M

    Great poem and post. From our conversations in LIHC, you probably remember that I feel very, very much the same and the ‘pay it forward’ mentality has sustained my enduring interest in education, whether as a teacher (considered it serious, decided not), or some other actor/stakeholder in improving education for young student. Love your blog, Tony! Miss our conversations!

    • Yes I certainly do! There’s so much room in education for intelligent, talented and caring people such as yourself to play a major role even if it’s outside of the classroom! Glad to hear you’re still considering it! Congrats btw and I can’t wait to hear what’s next.

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