Written by Hannah Laub, AmeriCorps Member serving on the Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation team at Kenilworth Science and Technology

City Year began with Basic Training Academy (BTA), an awkward and confusing time that you spend with 90 strangers in a large lecture hall, trying to take in the fact that you will spend the next 11 months with them. Many of these strangers had left behind almost all of their friends and family to come serve, and the fear of spending the next few months alone cultivated an environment of embarrassed small talk and self-conscious glances at each other’s khakis. We truly had no idea what the year to come would be like and with whom we would make a community.

Fast-forward two weeks when we found out which teams we were on. The room was notably tense moments before, as everyone was eager to finally find out if they would be working with third graders or high school seniors. We each got pieces of paper with our names on them, and people with the same color paper were on the same team. As my team and I found each other, I became more and more confused and surprised. Obviously I had no idea of knowing who would be on my team before we got our assignments, but I had an idea in my head of what it could like it. My real team met none of my expectations; in the two weeks of Basic Training Academy, I had spent almost no time with anyone that I ended up working with.

If I had one piece of advice for incoming City Year AmeriCorps members, it would be to rid yourself of all expectations and ignore all your immediate judgments of others. In those first two weeks of BTA, I didn’t once decide to have lunch or start conversation with the people I now consider my City Year family. We spend each and every day together, and each of us coming into the City Year room at 6:45 AM with our own joys and struggles. That type of proximity really does make you family. Sometimes you love your team, and other times they make you want to scream. But at the end of the year approaches, I am so grateful that City Year allowed me to become so close to such a fantastic and unique group of people. I’m from Virginia, and my teammates are from Louisiana, Texas, Oregon, West Virginia, and California. I would have never had the chance to meet any of them if it weren’t for City Year, and I certainly wouldn’t have gotten to consider them my closest friends. Although we are going to go our separate ways come this summer, because of my teammates I’ll go forward with the knowledge that strangers are really just one step away from family.

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