Picture it. Baltimore spring of 2002, I was 17 sitting in a classroom writing down my homework assignment: “Research and report on a person who has the job you would like to have when you get older” I followed it with a series of question marks, I was at a complete loss. The short version of the story is a that I ended up writing a report on Princess Diana, crossed the assignment off in my homework book. The longer version of the story however has nothing to do with royal aspirations but rather recognizing a clear and persistent calling to help people; this calling would lead me to serve two years with City Year and eventually a job as an occupational therapist.
I liked the idea of being part of something larger than myself as well as the idea of a team based approach. I spent my first corps year at City Year D.C. as a member of the Civic Engagement team before joining City Year for a second year, serving as a senior corps member on the founding team of City Year L.A. For many reasons, my year at CYLA was both the most rewarding and the most challenging. Part of the difficulty came from having to navigate a new city, but the other part had to do with building something from the ground up.
I have yet to come across a more dedicated, passionate, and devoted group of individuals than the people I worked with during my two years with City Year. As I reflect on the two years I spent serving, I can truly say that I would not have changed any part of it. While every day may not have been great, there was something great in every day and that’s very powerful! There are so many tiny moments that I am so proud of, both within myself, other team members and AmeriCorps members, and within the lives of the students and communities we served that it would be impossible to capture them all here. However, what I think is most valuable from my years of service is that I learned how to appreciate and value these tiny moments. Yes, a transformative service day is awesome and everyone gets pumped up about it--but a student finishing a math problem on her own is equally as great in its own way.
To me, my service meant providing necessary structures and supports, in order to empower individuals to become the best versions of themselves. How amazing is it that?! I know my work with City Year was just a small part of something much, much, larger than my two years of service but my service did not end upon the completion of my corps years.
I currently work as a pediatric occupational therapist (OT) in a school for children with special needs. City Year deepened my interest in continuing to serve and the experiences I had during my corps years were a tremendous asset over the course of applying for graduate school. I think it’s ok not to know exactly what you want to do and it’s ok to not have a five year plan when you graduate from City Year. But I do think it’s important to have passion and a desire to finding a career that makes you happy. I truly love the work I do and there are so many opportunities for occupational therapists to work in various treatment settings and with people of all ages. At 17, I didn’t even know what an OT was--in fact a lot of people don’t know what OT is--but it all started because I followed my passion for giving back.