By Danielle Innocent, AmeriCorps member serving on the Wellington Mangement team with McKay K-8 School
“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
- Isaac Newton
City Year has a collection of various short passages, called founding stories, that act as models for the ways in which we as a culture and we as an organization conduct ourselves. From discussing taking fate into one’s own hands to empathizing with the experiences of others to never being afraid to change the world, founding stories are excerpts that offer glimpses into the heart and soul of City Year idealism and ideology. Of all the founding stories, however, my personal favorite is Shoulders of Giants, based off of the quote by the famed physicist Isaac Newton. The story talks of success, but attributes this success not to the individual but to all who have come before. Throughout my months of service, I have used this philosophy both as inspiration to be grateful for all who have come before me, as well as motivation to be the best I can be so that I can serve as a giant for those who will follow.
One of the hardest aspects of doing a year of service to wrap my head around is the fact that it is just one year. Though some days and weeks seem long, I know I will reach the end of my service year much faster than I am prepared to. There is so much that I want to accomplish, so much potential in my students that they have yet to achieve, and such great achievements will take longer than a year to come to fruition. My students are only in fourth grade. I will not be around to see them get accepted to college, walk across the stage at their high school graduation, or even cross the stage as they leave middle school. I have this one year, these ten precious months, to make as much of an impact as I possibly can. And I have decided that the best way to make my mark in my students’ lives is to instill in them skills that they will carry with them to their year with their next AmeriCorps member and beyond. I strive every day to leave a strong foundations in my students and in my service overall that they will be able to build upon in the future, in turn making my shoulders worthy of standing on for all who follow in the footsteps of service.
Even more important than my becoming the giant for others, however, is constant reminders and acknowledgement of all the giants who have come before me that made my service and my impact possible. Being at a first-year partnership has caused us to adapt to being quick on our feet when testing out the waters of our collaboration, and keeping the quality of our service high to ensure that our school community has an idea of what to expect from City Year. Yet this does not diminish the impact of the many corps that City Year as a whole has had. This year would be absolutely impossible to navigate successfully without the wisdom, insight, and resources cultivated by previous AmeriCorps members. Past corps inspire me to be as great as they were and to make as much of an impact as they have so that, years from now, others will view my year of service in the same way.