By Georgia Handforth ’14, ’15
“My name is Georgia Handforth, and I proudly (oh, so proudly) serve as…” This introduction became second nature to me, even as the ending changed to reflect my years of service, first as an City Year AmeriCorps member and then a Team Leader in Little Rock, and then my role as Venue and Registration Coordinator for the City Year Summer Academy Team. Through each position, I always felt an intense sense of pride in standing before my teammates, colleagues, and partners in service and publicly claiming my connection to them and to our work.
For me, City Year’s team-based approach is one of the main factors that drew me to this organization. From a young age, my parents raised me to contribute to my community, and to view my contribution as part of a larger whole. By the time I ‘graduated’ fifth grade, I already experienced community-based work days where, through the organized and dedicated work of our community, we completed huge volunteer projects in a day. They were always days filled with so much laughter and enthusiasm.
Drawing on those experiences, when I started looking for jobs during my senior year of college I was willing to give a year of national service, so long as the organization I served was committed to supporting through community, that they saw the community as a vital source of power. The rest, as they say, is history: two endlessly long, yet impossibly short years immersed in the emotional rollercoaster of chaos that is each day, each hour, each minute of life in a middle school; two corps and two school teams that startled, inspired, challenged, supported, delighted and taught me. ; the site staff I met as an AmeriCorps member helped me grow into a Team Leader and a more patient, understanding and effective person.
During my two years in Little Rock, and especially the first year, I understood that City Year was much larger than just my relatively small site, but my first real taste of the vastness of the City Year team came between my first year and second year of service, at Summer Academy 2014. The experience was surreal. So many unfamiliar people in the familiar uniform, saying familiar words and sharing familiar experiences. There were so many moving pieces, small details and thoughtful touches involved in the planning and execution academy. So many answers to questions I hadn’t known I known, and new questions I never before thought to ask. What surprised me was not that the event happened, although that certainly was impressive. Rather what surprised me was that there were so many people who devoted so much of themselves to create an experience for so many people they likely never would meet, for students in so many cities they may never visit. For someone who was drawn to City Year by the desire to work on a team, as part of a community, Summer Academy was awe-inspiring.