Halfway through his first year in graduate school for physical therapy, Dan Foley was itching to take a break from his DPT program and focus on community service. This desire led him to intern at a non-profit hospital in Manhattan. On his way to work one day, he saw someone wearing a red City Year jacket. Intrigued by the uniform, Dan researched the organization and found that its commitment to social justice truly resonated with him. Having been the beneficiary of incredible mentors throughout his life, City Year offered him the opportunity to be that person for someone else.
In 2008, Dan joined City Year New York alongside his twin brother. As a first year AmeriCorps member, he enjoyed the opportunity to think critically about issues his students were facing and create lesson plans for them. Dan says his first year with City Year brought out the best of his creativity and collaboration. He met community leaders and learned from them while being a community servant. And most importantly, his work was both fun and meaningful. Midway through his first year with City Year, Dan decided to apply for a second year rather than return to graduate school.
“Through City Year, I learned what it was that I wanted to offer the world around me and I didn’t think physical therapy was the best way to get the best out of me,” Dan said.
Dan continued on with City Year for the next six years: first as a senior AmeriCorps member in New York, followed by four years in Los Angeles as a program manager, senior program manager, and program director. Most recently, Dan relocated to Florida to become City Year Jacksonville’s executive director.
While Dan sometimes wondered whether he was settling or taking the easy way by staying with City Year for so long, he does not regret that decision. When asked why he chose to continue his career with City Year he said, “A lot of reasons, but I always go back to: There were people who inspired me, who I admired, who I wanted to be more like, and they worked for City Year. They invested in me and showed me that I could do that for other people.”
As executive director of a City Year site, Dan’s role is to tell City Year’s story and make sure they have a story to tell. “I speak on our behalf, I write on our behalf and I organize the community around us. I am the one who all departments report into. I’m responsible for setting ambitious goals and making sure my team meets those ambitious goals,” Dan explained.
According to Dan, the most challenging aspect to get used to in his current position is moving away from working in schools and not seeing the impact of his work play out in front of him through his students’ progress. He has had to switch his motivation to creating the opportunity for others to impact students.
Dan is never far from what made him fall in love with the organization in the first place. In the same way that he once enjoyed utilizing his creativity to motivate his students, he now gets to ignite the passion of his community to support City Year and the passion of his staff to continue working diligently to meet their goals.