On the first day of Senior Corps Member Orientation in Providence in 2009, my fellow teammates and I were anxious to meet the "newbies"; the Senior Corps Members starting their first year of service. We had high expectations. We wanted to be a great team and lead our site well and we were maybe a bit nervous that new people would change that dynamic. We had even higher hopes for one of them, Jason, because he was going to be our roommate.
Whatever expectations we had for Jason, he exceeded them. That's one of the most incredible aspects of the City Year experience: you get this idea of what your service will be like, how you'll work with others, what you'll learn...and then you find yourself in the middle of your service year realizing you could have never imagined this. Jason was a phenomenal teammate. He was thoughtful and humble; he listened well and gave great feedback. No matter who you were or what you brought to your service, he had time for you. Plus, he was always up for a good laugh! I felt so honored to call him a teammate, roommate, and friend. I learned to be a better person just by being near him. After our year together, Jason went to serve a second year with City Year Miami, impacting even more lives with his kindness, leadership, and passion for service. During that year, Jason was accepted to University of South Florida's School of Medicine. Since then, it's been incredible to hear how he has utilized his compassion and servant leadership in the medical field. He is passionate about community health and caring for the underserved, co-directing a free clinic and providing healthcare to the homeless through Tampa Street Medicine. He's traveled to the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua for medical mission trips. In a recent email I asked if he'd like to share how his City Year experience might be influencing his work now, and from Nicaragua he shared the following:
"As for lessons learned at City Year, they really are countless. Through the training and our service I gained a better understanding of my own leadership style and how I work on a team. The diversity of my teams at City Year also taught me how to collaborate with people from all backgrounds in order to work towards a common goal. Whether it's keeping students in school or patient care, it takes a team effort to make it happen. Some of the responsibilities at City Year seemed overwhelming. I had no background in education but was tasked with creating lesson plans and leading students. After making it through that with the support of my team, I learned we were able to overcome any obstacle with the help of like minded people. Seeing how students' home life affected their performance at school also gave me a deeper understanding of the complex social factors that influence my patients' health. "
I'm so proud to have served with Jason. He made such an impact on who I am as a person and a leader. This is such a profound and unique aspect of serving with City Year. Not only are we given the opportunity to learn about ourselves as leaders and to serve our community in a meaningful way, but we also get this experience alongside some of the most incredible young leaders in our country. How amazing, too, that this is just one story of shared service, growth, and friendship that is multiplied thousands of times over, year after year, in communities across our nation and world.
Mahatma Ghandi famously said "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." Even better, I'd add, is the opportunity to serve others while surrounded by people who will quietly but profoundly change your life for the better. Jason Ricciuti changed my life, and I look forward to see how many other lives are profoundly changed because of his commitment to service.