By: Jonathan Ferris
At the beginning of every service year, each City Year AmeriCorps member has the opportunity to craft a personal "I Serve" statement or commonly known as a personal mission statement.
This statement is created after interpersonal reflection on one’s core values and priorities, and is a symbol of the commitment and purpose AmeriCorps members demonstrate every day in service. It is not a fixed statement, but rather, it evolves over time as each individual grows and develops on his or her journey.
In August of 2013, when I began my corps year, I proudly proclaimed that "I serve because I believe that anything can be a jungle gym, anyone can be a teacher, and anywhere can be a classroom." I chose this because as a bright-eyed young Idealist I was filled with optimism and a can-do attitude!
As a Team Leader, I revised my statement from the year prior. While still calling upon the positivity and confidence of the year prior, I wanted to focus that message into a reflection on the concept of change.
"I serve because I believe that change is possible. All it takes is one person to inspire the minds of young people, and to show them that the most powerful external change is a direct result of the most powerful internal change."
Inspiration for this revision came mostly from my experiences in the Idealist's Journey (IJ), a leadership development program that every AmeriCorps member participates their first year. IJ bridges leadership and service - the more we grow as leaders, the more transformational impact we can have on our students.
My statement focuses on the idea of “change” and connects interpersonal change with intrapersonal change. By allowing myself to reflect on what I truly valued, I was able to guide students through the same process. In a lunch group meeting, students identified what their individual core values were (e.g. Honesty, Respect, Hard Work). Once students had reflected on what was important for them, we were able to have conversations about how their values might change how they behave class. From this conversation sprung many more, and I was able to see students take ownership over themselves, and become more proactive learners and leaders.
This lesson of the benefits of internal change and openness to Idealism is one of the most valuable lessons I learned during my service year I hope to emphasize it in my new role as a Team Leader by helping and encouraging others to see that in order to create the most powerful situational change, one must first strive to create the most powerful personal change.