Jesse Carmen is a City Year Boston and City Year Tulsa alum. She is the Learning and Development Coordinator for City Year New York.
City Year didn’t just change my life. In many ways it helped to save my life.
I credit this to the power of the values that City Year embodies, specifically the values of inclusivity and diversity. I credit it to my AmeriCorps team– people who taught me more about myself and others than I could ever imagine in 10 short months. I credit it to my Senior Corps year – a year full of challenges and leadership transitions and stepping outside my comfort zone. A journey full of self-reflection and self-acceptance and slowly but surely self-love. I credit it to the amazing people I have met along the way: friends that turned into family and mentors that I have helped me tremendously.
During my corps year I fell in love with City Year. I fell in love with the way City Year made me feel about myself. For the first time in my life I felt as if I were home. I felt as if I could truly be myself. You see, for most of my life something was missing and for the longest time I couldn’t pinpoint what this ‘thing’ was. And, as my Corps year came to a close and my Senior Corps year began I finally realized what this ‘thing’ was. I liked girls, and in response to this I decided to move 1,700 miles away to Tulsa, OK to either end these thoughts and feelings or finally own them, accept them and eventually act upon them.
Naturally, I chose the latter option, but I truthfully do not think I would have ever gotten there without the help of City Year. With the help of my City Year mentor, I was able to finally talk about everything on my mind, open up, and accept this part of me. I didn’t verbally come out until last February, ironically enough, after a Learning & Development day – a day where we had a training on ‘how to support LBGTQ youth.’ As I sat and watched videos of teenagers coming out and read statistics about LBGTQ youth anxiety, depression, and various other struggles, I knew in that moment it was time to tell someone. Once again, I was learning from the students we serve.
City Year has given me so much—way more than this single blog post could ever capture. This organization has made me internally reflect, learn about others and their different perspectives, push myself in ways I didn’t even know existed and most importantly allowed me to live out City Year’s values such as empathy, inclusivity, and social justice for all in my daily life.
City Year didn’t just change my life. City Year helped to save my life.
Thank you, City Year. Thank you for challenging me and pushing me to grow in ways that I never thought possible.
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