By Halicia Lyttle, AmeriCorps member serving on the Staples, Inc. team at Rogers Middle School

“We are standing upon the shoulders of giants,” is a phrase that I have often heard as an AmeriCorps member serving with City Year Boston. It stems from a Sir Isaac Newton quote and reminds us to continue building upon the legacy of those who served before us. The statement in itself is powerful, but it was not until I met my students for the first time that I truly understood the impact of City Year’s alumni.

On the first day of school, after formally introducing myself to the class I’d be serving, there was a student who was particularly eager about speaking to me. This student explained that Ms. Shin was his AmeriCorps member last year. He went on to describe all of the great things that Ms. Shin had done for him. He ended by stating, “Ms. Shin was a legend.”

“A legend,” I thought to myself. How could I ever measure up to a legend? 

I could not help wondering how I could have that same impact on a student’s life. Ms. Shin and all of the other City Year alumni laid the foundation for us to embark on this journey and to serve a cause greater than ourselves. It is because of our alumni’s choice to lead every day with spirit, discipline, purpose, and pride that the red jacket I wear is a powerful symbol for so many community members. That day, I pledged to do my very best to uphold Ms. Shin’s legacy—our alumni legacy. I vowed to always put the students first and to push them (and myself) to strive for excellence, every day. 

It takes a whole village to raise a child and City Year alumni are an integral part of that village. The alumni are a major reason why students are excited to have City Year serve in their classrooms and why they recognize us when we’re out in the community. These students know that they have a village behind them that is committed to their success.

Thank you, alumni, for allowing us to stand upon your shoulders—the shoulders of giants. Thank you for encouraging, connecting, and strategizing to share your vision and wisdom with those who have followed in your footsteps. Lastly, thank you for your commitment to the next seven generations. 

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