After completing secondary school in Tanzania, our son Peter decided to take a gap year in America. Although my wife and I are originally from Chicago, our two boys were born and raised in East Africa, where we still live. City Year offered Peter a unique opportunity to serve by tutoring and mentoring, and to assume the responsibilities of adulthood in a vibrant city.
We had many concerns when Peter was accepted into the Chicago program. Aside from finding a roommate and housing, would he be safe? Would he and his team be welcomed in an at-risk school where most of the professional staff was new? And as a high school graduate, would Peter have the tools necessary to mentor students and thrive at City Year?
My wife and I have been very impressed with City Year structure and chain of supervision. Well articulated policies are born of experience. Each school group is led by a Team Leader and is managed by an Impact Manager; and all report to the central office. Our son met often with his supervisors, who mentored him throughout the year. The entire corps met weekly for training sessions. Their identifiable uniforms were recognized and supported by local communities. Clearly, priorities were placed on guiding corps members toward success.
We also appreciate the school where Peter served. From the principal to the classroom teacher whom Peter supported , staff members were accepting and willing to help. Tutoring primary school children, as all younger AmeriCorps members do, our son came to understand the obstacles his students must overcome in order to learn. He developed a deep empathy and a desire to open doors for those who struggle.
At an age when most peers enter college dormitories, Peter and his roommate rented an apartment. They had to pay bills, feed themselves and get to work on time. It was exciting and challenging, and not always easy. But Peter managed. We are as proud of his development here as his determination to serve.
Last September, AmeriCorps member parents were asked to finish the sentence “I serve because…” My wife and I suggested to Peter that he serve because “love dares us to reap what we sow.” In hindsight, this might have been a lot to throw on an 18 year-old’s shoulders. Yet, in ways we could not have imagined, Peter grew into a man capable of setting his own goals and undertaking all the work required to reach them. Peter served because he wanted to. He will harvest the rewards of his efforts this past year for the rest of his life. We are grateful to City Year for inviting him to the journey.