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At the fall meeting of the National Alumni Advisory Board and Site staff points on November 6, Nellie and Stef began their term of service as the Co-Chairs of the National Alumni Advisory Board (NAAB).  Established in 2008, the NAAB is comprised of volunteer Alumni Board Chairs from local Alumni Associations across the country. Chairs lead their local Alumni Advisory Board to plan activities that mobilize alumni as volunteers, donors and ambassadors of City Year.

We asked our new Co-Chairs to reflect on key service experiences, what they love about City Year's culture, what they do now, why they stayed so engaged with the alumni network, advice to fellow alumni on getting involved as well as what their vision for the alumni community is.

L: Nellie Tsai R: Stef Vestal

Most memorable experience as an AmeriCorps or Senior AmeriCorps member?  

Nellie:  My favorite memories of City Year were at BTR (Basic Training Retreat). Starting off your service year in the Santa Cruz mountains, surrounded by like-minded peers and the optimism and potential of the adventure ahead--even though I'm not a camper, there was something magical about that. Plus, there's that moment that inevitably occurs when you wonder if you can actually do all these things: embrace the culture, commit to the service year, commit to your community, trust these people that you just met, rock the uniform, make a difference.

Stef: During both my corps year in Providence and in Washington, DC one of my favorite experiences was Camp City Year.  I loved the break from regular service and the fact that different AmeriCorps members got the chance to take on leadership roles.  It was always a lot of fun to incorporate a theme (we did Olympics and Sports Around the World) into a variety of activities and be able to put on the camp for so many students of different ages.

Your favorite part of City Year culture? 

Nellie:  PITWs! By the way, when you quote/paraphrase PITWs in non-City Year company, you can sound really smart. And yes, I do quote PITWs from time to time. You do, too, right?? 

Stef: I love the founding story Ubuntu  so much that I have a tattoo of it!  I just connect with the sentiment that 'my humanity is tied to yours'.  It just embodies everything that I learned in City Year--to learn from, work with and trust each other.

Why do you stay involved in the alumni network?  How has it benefited you? 

Nellie: Most of my best friends and mentors are a direct result of my City Year. So, the main reason I stay involved is because of the people it's given me who have shaped my life in the best possible way. I want to continue to help grow this community. 

Stef: I honestly didn't give it a second thought, joining the alumni network.  The connections I made during my corps years were so strong and memorable that I wanted to stay connected with those people, and have the chance to meet other alums. I have met countless dedicated, passionate, hard-working individuals who have left a lasting impression on my life.  From connecting on education topics to meeting new people and learning about different organizations, the alumni network is a constant revolving door of supports in any capacity you can imagine. 

What advice do you have for alumni or corps members who want to connect to the alumni network? 

Nellie: Just reach out! The alumni network has a ton of great events and initiatives happening across the country that range from mentoring ACMs to happy hours/networking events. When I moved to Detroit, one of the first things I did was reach out to the local alumni board to figure out how to get involved and make friends. Because you know what? Making friends as an adult is hard, and having a network where you have built in small talk topics ready to go makes it easier.

Stef: Seek out the alumni network in your community. If you don't know how to do that, reach out to your local site pointalumni board chair or National Alumni Team and ask for help.  Make sure your contact information is updated on the website or with your site!  Alumni communities are always looking to be in touch with as many alums as they can.  They are always looking for new ideas and opinions about how to best serve the corps and alums of the areas. 

What do you do now professionally and how did City Year influence your career trajectory?

Nellie: I work at the Michigan Nonprofit Association and oversee our youth civic engagement programming. That means I get to work with communities across the state in developing strategies to get more young people involved. I definitely don't think I would be here if I didn't serve with City Year. City Year was one of the hardest things I've done professionally --the demanding hours, the weight of the work-- this experience truly showed me how much I was capable of. My most stressful days of work now are nothing like my most stressed out days as an AmeriCorps member.

Stef: I am a 6th grade teacher and high school field hockey coach.  I owe my entire career trajectory to City Year. Prior to City Year, I had aspirations of working in business or going to law school.  My work and time in City Year opened my eyes to education and my time in DC allowed me to get connected to field hockey coaching networks. 

As Co-Chair of the National Alumni Advisory Board, what is your vision and aspirations for the City Year alumni community?

Nellie: I’m excited to work with the alumni team to help steward and cultivate alumni as champions of national service and City Year.  One way of doing just that is to build on the success of Red Jacket Weekends (like in Baton Rouge, Boston, Chicago, New Hampshire and Philadelphia) and have it become a hallmark alumni event at each site. Ultimately, my vision is centered on fostering community and meaningful connection between alumni and City Year

Stef: I love how much our alumni community and boards support the amazing work that the individual sites do, and I love how much we are able to support AmeriCorps members with things like 18-Minute Networking. However, one of my visions for the next couple of years is to maintain that success but balance it by increasing our Alumni engagement and support.  I want to provide more support for alumni looking to change careers, for alumni who have families and want to stay involved.

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