Service, giving back to society, is a big part of how I was raised. During my senior year of high school, my parents really wanted me to take a gap year, and my mom brought up the idea of doing City Year. My friends and family were familiar with City Year and it’s mission to help at risk students stay in school and on track. Once I decided to apply, they were very supportive even though it meant moving to New York City on my own.
I was almost 18 when I started my corps year and at first, I was a little intimidated. Most of the other corps members on my team were between 22 and 24 so I felt like I had a lot to learn. Quickly though, I realized that while I didn’t have the same academic credentials as my teammates, I still had something to bring to the table. During high school, I attended and tutored in inner-city schools in Washington DC, so I had relevant real world experiences in terms of what it would be like to serve as a corps member. Plus, I think it was helpful to have a recent high school graduate on the team because many of my team members had forgotten what middle school was like. This made me really confident and still helps me to remember that my life experiences are important, relevant, and unique things I can bring to the table in my college career and beyond.
The thing I loved most about being a corps member is working with my diverse team. I was used to diversity, but had never worked with so many people of different ages who came from all over the country. Since I had a very impressive team: 2 went to law school, 4 went to medical school, 2 went on to graduate school for teaching/education, 1 went to teaching abroad, and 1 started a career with City Year. Because of this diversity, everyone brought their own perspectives and strengths to the table. It also really helped that everyone spoke different languages and had studied different things in college.



One of the biggest things I learned from my experience is that doing a gap year with City Year isn't what some people think of as a gap year. It’s different than travelling or doing something easy and part-time. City Year is full-time and you will work harder than you ever have before (and probably more than you ever will in college). You will also mature, gain valuable skills and, meet some of the most compassionate teammates who will become your best and lifelong friends.  All while devoting yourself to a cause greater than self. City Year is the motivation and focus you need after high school to find out which field you're passionate enough about what you want to study in college or if you want to take an alternate path.


If you are passionate about social justice and equal opportunity, and willing to invest 50-55 hours a week of frustrating, emotional, but incredibly rewarding work, seriously consider it! It's not easy, but you will meet some of the best people, have a better idea of what you want to do in life, and truly find about your passions and values.


-Claire Dempsey (CYNY '12-'13, Pitt Sophomore)




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