By Kevin Tucker, City Year Boston Impact Manager
In the Summer of 2009, just a year out of college and with a desire to do something different, I packed all my worldly possessions in the back of my beloved ‘99 Ford Explorer and drove from my home in Philadelphia to Baton Rouge to begin my City Year journey.
I wasn’t sure what to expect on my first day of service, just that I was going to work on a team, wear a red jacket and exercise in public. And while all of this was true, my experience ended up being so much more.
My first day with City Year Baton Rouge is still a vivid memory. I remember that it was a million degrees outside and five people were dancing and singing in khakis about it being “Red Hot” as 39 other new AmeriCorps members and I awkwardly walked past them. The building was cavernous with floor to ceiling windows and giant murals with sayings of “Beloved Communities” and the “Power of Small Groups of Dedicated Citizens.”
Fast forward to the end of that year and I felt inextricably tied to my team of AmeriCorps members. City Year created a space where we, for better and worse, spent almost all of our time serving and living together. We spent holidays and tailgated football games together, built pergolas in the rain together, argued together and fought for what we believed in and we even sang and danced to “Red Hot” together. In addition, I walked away feeling like I personally learned more about myself than I could have expected from the experience. I learned that I was someone people could count on, and what it felt like to truly have people count on you, I learned how much I loved supporting others and that working with others always leads to a better outcome even when it made the process feel more difficult.
I also gained a best friend from Montana, racked up about 2,000 hours of service working full time in schools, learned how to work with a particularly challenging high school student and City Year even sent me to Los Angeles for a weekend where I saw John Legend perform. It was an amazing year and in the process, City Year became my community; a community that valued people, their experience and their growth. It was a perfect fit for my burgeoning belief system and it’s culture became a vital part of my own.
Now 7 years later, I ask myself why I continue to serve with City Year can simply say it has everything to do with the culture of building community and valuing people.
To the exact day, 7 years after that first blistering summer day, now serving in Boston, I still feel that sense of community. After two service years and four years as a staff member, I have only seen my connection to the organization’s community and culture grow and I have had the chance to build a network of colleagues who have become family. On the good days and especially on the tough days, this community and all the people I have served alongside are what push me forward and keep me coming back for more.