Sometimes you think you have life all figured out. You're working hard, full-steam ahead, toward a dream or career or life you've always envisioned for yourself. But no matter how much planning you do, life can sometimes lead you in surprising new directions when you pause and take time to think about what it is you really want to do and contribute to the world.
This was the case for City Year Jacksonville Executive Director, Dan Foley. When he was in college, Dan never envisioned himself as the Executive Director of a nonprofit. He wanted to be a physical therapist. Or at least, so he thought until one day during a graduate school kinesiology lab.
“I remember taking this class and siting with a classmate of mine. They were so passionate about what they were doing,” Dan said.
“I was like, ‘Man. You're going to be a really great physical therapist.’
They were like, ‘We're all going to be one.’
I was like, ‘No. You're going to be great. I don't want to do this.’”
His classmate’s advice to him? Figure out what you want to do. Figure out what you're passionate about.
Dan’s journey led him to discover City Year and a passion for creating meaningful change in his community. "Your community is invested in you in such a way that you have the ability to give back, so what better way to prove that your community was right than by giving back?" Dan said.
More than nine years later, he’s still with the organization. During his tenure, Dan has served two years as an AmeriCorps member and Team Leader in New York and led teams as an Impact Manager and Impact Director in Los Angeles. Currently, he works as the Executive Director of City Year Jacksonville.
“People often ask me, what is my biggest accomplishment in the time that I've been with the organization? It is undoubtedly seeing folks that I have led do the job that I did when I was leading them. When I was an impact manager, seeing my corps members become impact managers. When I was an impact director, seeing my corps members become impact directors,” Dan said.
“I've stayed at City Year first and foremost because of the mission that we're helping to accomplish by helping to reveal the limitless potential that exists inside all students,” Dan said.
“We know that kids have the potential, and we are a part of their village to help reveal that potential. While I kind of stumbled into the non-profit sector through my year of service, I've very much always approached it not as a non-profit professional, but as a community servant. […] City Year is hard. It is challenging. It's supposed to be. We are seeking to work in places that deserve to have incredible people like our AmeriCorps.”
But it’s more than just the challenge and potential of City Year’s mission that motivates and inspires Dan. It’s the people. “City Year is family to me. I love our organization because of the people that we bring in there, and the type of people who are attracted to serving in this capacity,” he said. “They are top notch professionals, ambitious for change, committed to doing all they can to make a difference in the lives of others. It inspires me. But they also build me up and mentor me and develop me and allow me to mentor them. I couldn't ask for more from a workplace environment.”
Dan is one of six winners of this year’s Comcast NBCUniversal Leadership Awards. To learn more about the Comcast NBCUniversal Leadership Award and this year’s award winners, visit the City Year alumni website here.