By: Paul Willis, Senior Program Manager at City Year Sacramento 

During my time here at City Year, balance is a word that I keep coming back to: balance. Having been with the organization for 7 years now has been a blessing and an exercise in patience, grace and reflection. As a human being, I've grown, and I've realized that my personal and professional development has occurred because of my desire to be challenged. I've found that when you challenge yourself and incorporate your passions into your work, it's a form of self-care and as a result, the work becomes more meaningful and less stressful. Every day, I support the people around me to share what they're passionate about. Whether a student wants to play sports professionally or become a doctor, or if an AmeriCorps member wants to travel to Peru to build a farm, or if a staff member wants to go into financial accounting for the FBI, I highly encourage everyone I encounter to pursue their passions fiercely.

One of my passions is hip-hop. It is part of who I am and one of the reasons why I serve. My art is driven by serving the community, which for me is the perfect balance. I create music that reflects what I value – education, service and building up communities. Hip-Hop also has a set of values that I connect with strongly. Those four values are peace, love, unity and having fun. (Sidenote: if that doesn't perfectly describe City Year, then I don't know what would.) Over 300 delegates from the hip-hop community traveled to the UN in '93, establishing hip-hop’s global culture and its Declaration of Peace, a governing body of 18 principles that discuss the way that hip-hoppers represent themselves, their community and culture. The set of 18 principles discuss the importance of integrity, being a positive role model and standing up for what's right. These are principles that are similar to City Year's idealism, spirit, discipline, purpose and pride.

Some of the foundational hip-hop artists recognized that authenticity and genuine care for one’s self and community kept hip-hoppers and the culture together, which also represent City Year’s values and beliefs. As the hip-hop culture developed and became more organized and more profitable, there was a split between the industry (what you hear on the radio) and the culture (what hip-hoppers live every day). The music that became popular did not accurately reflect the beautiful struggle of our day-to-day lives, and from that point it didn't matter if you could rap, break dance or graffiti. Those skills alone did not automatically make you part of the culture. Who you were and how you chose to be – the real and authentic you – became your passport to the culture. City Year also has a strong culture that manages pretty effectively to live out that same mission. City Year's culture keeps us accountable to being the best versions of ourselves every day.  It's the balance of these values that motivate and challenge me in every creative and professional space that I participate in. Pushing myself and others to continue to reflect, challenge ourselves and grow has become an important part of my life.

We're all a work in progress. What are your passions? What is your challenge? Are you living to your fullest potential? What steps can you take to get there? What can we as your community do to support you?

If you enjoyed this piece, check out: 

-A Call to Fight Educational Injustice

-Furthering My Passion 

-Thank You, City Year 

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