Written by Lydia DuBois, AmeriCorps member serving on the Capital Area United Way Team at Capitol Middle School.


Bing! It’s time to get creative with wisdom.

Idealism, as I understand it, tells us that our lives and the worlds we perceive as our own are immaterial. This sounds really philosophical and complicated at first, but I think that if you’re reading this and a) you understand the City Year AmeriCorps Member experience, and b) you’ve dealt with any unpredictable situation ever, you’ll be quick to catch on. Idealism, this brain-powered reality, reinforces the idea that we shouldn’t take anything at face value. Everything we see in three-dimensional "real life" time is affected by the lens through which we see it: we can convince ourselves of anything, and as City Year AmeriCorps Members, we can strive to see most of what we do through a lens of service. Everything we do is influenced by the values and beliefs we carry. As City Year AmeriCorps Members, as long our actions come from our hearts, we can seek small victories in times when we may feel defeated. 

As AmeriCorps Members, we often encounter situations that we cannot control: they can be unfamiliar, unpleasant, inconvenient, and plain old frustrating. We can’t predict or map out everything, but we can arrive each day with cemented values and our individual (and team-wide) service mindsets to guide us through the day. 

And there you have it: my own “founding story,” or, explanation, as to why PITWs were born. For those who do not know, “PITW” stands for “Putting Idealism to Work.” Idealism, one of City Year’s core values, is expressed among 183 PITWs, slogan-type pearls of City Year wisdom and guidance.

PITWs are used when one leads a meeting, delivers information through a training session, or just wants to communicate a message. I think that most of us have scanned the list of PITWs wondering, “why don’t they have one that says ____?”

I decided to give each team a chance to get creative: I asked each one to create a PITW that best represents how they feel about their service. Here is what CYBR’s seven wonderful teams came up with:

Capitol Middle

PITW #4,867,932:

Life gets choppy. Ride the wave of City Year life. The ebb and flow of service can crash along your board, but keep standing. Surf’s up, brah!

Broadmoor Middle

PITW #1225:

Never be scared to ask your team for support. We each will face adversity and will have to make tough choices and sacrifices this year. We must try to remember that many of these challenges are universal.

Claiborne Elementary

PITW #184:

Your team will feed off of each other's energy. Save your appetite for positivity. 

Winbourne Elementary

PITW #2nd Square:

This is fun. Enjoy it. 

Melrose Elementary

PITW #185:

Lend your lens. Use your experiences to show your students and those around you a new perspective. Don't be afraid to borrow the lenses of others.

Celerity Crestworth Charter

PITW #123:

Stay Positive. Everyone has their tough days, so try not to take someone's actions and/or comments personally, they might appreciate your optimistic attitude later even if they don't in that moment. 

Merrydale Elementary

PITW #70,812:

The size of your office doesn't affect the size of your impact.

The audience introduces and finishes a PITW with the opening of the hand and a “bing!” (Brendan Hughes, a CY Columbus and Boston alumnus invented the gesture because he said that every time he heard a PITW he also heard a lightbulb go off inside of his head: Bing!) For all City Year AmeriCorps Members who are in the real thick of their service: use these pearls of City Year wisdom, and don’t be afraid to create your own. For everyone else: feel free to borrow our PITWs to guide you when you need words of encouragement. Look through our handbook and scan the 183 options. Get creative! Just don’t forget to end them with a “bing!”

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