My name is Marissa Rodriguez and I am a proud alumna of City Year New Hampshire, ’08, ’09.  I also am a current member of the City Year Boston Alumni Board.

I’ve gotten to know this corps throughout the year. I’ve served alongside some of you at Red Jacket Weekend, was blown away by your professionalism at 18 Minute Networking, and am hoping to see a few more of you next fall working with me at Boston Scholar Athletes. As I’ve gotten to know your class, one thing that has stood out is how you’ve embraced and embodied City Year culture, so I thank you for that.

As we celebrate 25 years of powerful service provided by City Year all over this great city, country, and globe, one thing comes up again and again. And that’s the founding story of Ubuntu which states: “I am a person through other people, my humanity is tied to yours.”

Michael Brown, CEO and Co-Founder of City Year, actually did a fantastic job of conveying this sentiment at our recent Gala (which I know a lot of you attended), saying: “City Year is because you are.”

In that moment, I knew what I wanted to write to you all about. There is no doubt that a "City Year" (or two) changes you … but it is the people who make a difference well beyond your years of service. 

I have never been around a group of people who are so different but think the same way--all focused on the mission and goal of making a difference to young people.

What has amazed me throughout the years, especially as I’ve become more involved here in Boston, is that even as City Year and its service model evolves, our collective mindset as members of the City Year community does not.

That unwavering belief that I can make a difference, I have to make an impact and the most profound way I can do that is by uniting with the other people around me wearing red jackets.

That is the world you’re entering into as a City Year alumnus or alumna (whether here in Boston or anywhere else across the country), a world where you can always find someone like you--even if they are completely different.

I’m getting married next year and as I started to think about the people I want to share this amazing moment with, I realized that most of my closest friends and my biggest inspirations are people with whom I served.

These are people who I still never miss an opportunity to participate in a service day with, or an opportunity to encourage, support, or motivate. They push me to be the best version of myself and provide an immense amount of love and laughs along the way.

That is the gift of City Year. One that I can never quite appreciate enough.

The other everlasting gift of City Year is that for some reason I still think in PITWs … so before I lead you all in the pledge I’m going to leave you with one: PITW #98: “All people—especially young people—need the same eight things: meaning, adventure, community, power, respect, structure, challenge, and opportunity.”

I see those eight things every time I go into The English High School where my fiancé teaches and a City Year team serves, I see them in those people who will be attending my wedding and I see them in everyone who has in some way supported these 265 corps members through a year of service that will lead to a lifetime of spirit, discipline, purpose, and pride.

Like Michael Brown said: City Year is because you are… City Year is because WE are.

Because the beauty of it is that my City Year family grows every single year…I am excited and proud to welcome all of you into our alumni community.

To view photos of our corps' graduation, visit our flickr album!

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