By Joel Fralick, Team Leader, City Year Chicago
On the eve of my college graduation in May of 2012, I still had no idea where life would take me next. My studies had taught me so much, but transitioning from the classroom to the workforce was, as many college graduates are finding out, not a simple feat. I didn’t have many opportunities that would lead to long-term professional development or any that sparked passion within me; then I found City Year.
The opportunity to serve with City Year is the best thing to ever happen to me, both personally and professionally. As a first year corps member in Washington, DC, and now as a Team Leader in Chicago, I have been able to provide much-needed services to youth in two of America’s most struggling school districts. But the service I have given to others has served me back more than I imagined.
In my time with City Year, I have had the chance to take on leadership roles in countless aspects of my service. From planning and organizing a spring break camp for over 300 students, to engaging community members, corporate sponsors and politicians in transformational service projects, and to leading my very own team through their year of service—there are ample opportunities in City Year for me to step up and develop my leadership abilities.
Often, the work we do at City Year can be difficult to explain to people outside of the organization. Despite the ambiguity of such service work - no two days are exactly alike - there are many chances to learn specific and transferrable skills. I have learned everything from how to manage and analyze various forms of data within multiple software systems, to creating and implementing logistics and day-of action plans for large-scale events. If there’s a skill you want to learn in City Year, chances are someone else in the organization will be willing and able to teach you.
When you join City Year, you immediately gain access to not only an expansive, global network of other corps members and staff, but countless City Year and AmeriCorps alumni, sponsors and affiliated service partners. In my 18 months of service with City Year, I have made hundreds, if not thousands, of professional and personal human connections with people from every corner of the public and private spheres.
Teamwork and Collaboration
One of our core values at City Year is Teamwork, and it’s easy to see why when you look at our service model. Every person, in every role, at City Year has a team to support them. Not a single day goes by in which it isn’t necessary to rely on and trust in the members of your team. The opportunity to learn how to function as a member of a team, while being exposed to extreme diversity in often challenging circumstances, cultivates a massive amount of self-confidence and allows individuals to gain an important skill for any career—collaboration.
Flexibility and Communication
There are only a few roles you could take on within the first years of your career that require as much flexibility as a year of national service does. The stakes are high and the environment is ever changing. With that being said, City Year provides an extremely supportive framework and a culture that allows its members to constantly practice effective and efficient communication in order to overcome challenges.
All of these things are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what City Year and national service has given to me. As an organization, we make it a priority to focus not only on our students’ academic and social-emotional growth, but we also place a very high value on our corps members’ development and their LACY (Life/Leadership After City Year) plans.
As I approach the close of my second year of service, I am asking myself, 'what comes next?' No matter where my career path may take me, one thing is certain: I’m more prepared to join the work force now than I ever have been, and I am extremely fulfilled by the work I’ve done to get here. I hope to be able to articulate my time here in a meaningful way to potential future employers. Lucky for me, that’s a priority for City Year, too.