Served: ’12, ’13
Current Occupation: Adaptive Behavior Analyst Specialist, Boston Public Schools
Fun Fact: The very first school Nick attended was an all-Italian School located in Colombia. Every single class was taught in Italian!
If you ask an AmeriCorps member or alum why he or she served—you’ll no doubt receive a myriad of responses. But there’s one theme that we hear time and time again. From practicing and build their leadership skills to gaining a clearer sense of the careers they’d like to pursue, many alumni say a year of national service helped shaped who they are today. Nick Gonzalez ’12, ’13 is no exception.
City Year Boston (CYB): What first attracted you to City Year?
Nick Gonzalez (NG): My answer changes all the time, but I think the general theme of what brought me to City Year stays the same. I went to college as an undergrad thinking I wanted to do business. I was a double major in international business and Latin American studies. I thought I would be able to use them both—I’d get to travel and do business around the world, focusing on Latin America.
But then, when junior and senior year came and it was time to start applying to jobs to make my dreams a reality, well, it was harder than I thought it would be. Most of the positions I found required an M.B.A. or five or more years of experience. That was experience that right out of college, I didn’t have.
So that was about the time that I met an alum from City Year Boston at a career fair--Nicole Kfoury, she’s a Program Manager now, but she also graduated from the same school that I did. She came to the Assumption College career fair and spoke about her experience serving, and she got me hooked.
I wanted to use my degrees and I thought, ‘Great, I’ll work for an organization that works with primarily minorities, like Latin Americans.’
CYB: How did you know you made the right decision to serve?
NG: Meeting all these students from different homes, different backgrounds helped me understand I wanted to work with kids.
I’d have to say my behavior focus list [of students] was the reason I came back to serve a second year. […] There was one student that I served who always had some sort of anger coming out of him. […] We worked out how to deal with anger. We worked out what was really going on—where that anger was really coming from. […] Then, when we worked it out, we talked about how he could get adults’ attention without resorting to violence.
I’ll never forget that day, when my year of service coming to end, he was about to get into a fight and then he just clenched his fists and turned around to talk to an adult---he came and he talked to me about it. I was so proud of him.
CYB: You mentioned earlier that serving made you realize you wanted to work with youth. How has your career trajectory changed since you graduated from City Year?
NG: My first year 10 months [of service] weren’t enough. Then 20 months weren’t enough, either. I decided I wanted to continue working with youth. After my service years I applied to work as a para professional, ironically enough at the Dever-McCormack Lower School, where I did my first year of service.
[Now], I’m a Behavior Analyst Specialist, working with students who have been diagnosed with autism. I work with them on their social skills, and their learning and communication skills. All of my work is focused on behavior. That’s the reason why I wanted to work with kids to begin with—to learn where their behaviors are coming from.
CYB: You’re involved in the 25th Anniversary Alumni campaign. Can you tell me why you continue to invest in the organization?
NG: There are a lot of reasons. I think primarily, it’s because if it wasn’t for City Year, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t be this passionate about working with students. […] City Year has so much to offer for AmeriCorps members and alumni alike. It’s the least I could do to pay it forward and to give back to this organization that gave me so much.
Are you a City Year alum? Join the conversation with #cyalumni.