Introducing Akida Azad.
We were able to have a chat with Akida Azad and talk about her service with City Year. We talked to her about her most recent role and how she uses her experience with Care Force to further her career. Fun fact: Akida’s family moved to the U.S.A. purely on chance through a lottery system for a diversity visa when she was 4 years old.
Q. Thank you so much for coming out. We know that you are very busy. So, let’s get started. What is your favorite memory from your first AmeriCorps year?
AA: There is one that I’ll probably never forget. I was working in a middle school with an all-girls class, supporting in math. Towards the end of the year, after we had gone through all of the ups and downs, a few of the girls from one of my classes got together and wrote me a really sweet card and got me chocolates for my birthday. It was just a really big moment of gratitude, so I really appreciated them. The rest of the day they were really well-behaved - just doing their math work, focusing and paying attention - which is kind of the best gift you can ask for. In that moment, I could tell that they had learned and grown so much throughout the year, and that meant a lot to me.
Q. Wow, that’s really awesome, thank you for sharing that. Now shifting over to your year with Care Force, what was your favorite trip and why?
AA: One trip that was very meaningful to me was when we went back to Jacksonville, which was the city that I served in during my first AmeriCorps year. It was unique because it was the first and only time we worked with a school that was specifically for students with special needs that year. We tried to make their learning environment as colorful and engaging as possible because we were informed that it would help the kids who respond to different forms of stimuli. After the event, the students at the school hand-painted tiles that they gave to each one of us and it was really, really sweet. I was glad to go back and serve that community in a different way. Overall, it was just a really fun trip because we got to eat a lot of amazing food and I got to enjoy the sun again after living in Boston!
Q. That’s so nice of them to have done that. Okay, now we’ll transition to what you currently do. What is your current position and with who? And also, what do you do in your job?
AA: For two years I was the Development Coordinator at Year Up National Capitol Region (NCR). I worked in DC/Northern Virginia market of Year Up, which is a nonprofit organization that focuses on workforce development and higher education for Opportunity Youth ages 18 to 24. In that role, I supported events, data management and entry, grant writing, and stewardship. Recently, I was promoted to Data Systems Specialist for the National development team, so now I support not just a local market, but the data reporting and analysis for all of our solicitors across the entire network.
Q. That sounds a lot but all very interesting. What are some skills that you developed while working on Team Care Force and how are they relevant to your work?
AA: I learned a great deal around project management/event planning. I learned a majority of it from working with Hugh Harlow when we were planning the Microsoft service event. That includes skills like how to organize and keep track of checklists in excel, how to plan months ahead of time, how to delegate, etc. Having a good understanding of how things should run when they run really well, like they do at Care Force, helped provide me with best practices for all events going forward. Another skill I learned when we were in our working group projects, was how to use basic excel. During those couple of months in the office during the winter, I was practicing how to make tables, sort data, and use formulas. I used my time wisely to develop a skill set that is marketable and appealing to employers. I also learned how to engage with external stakeholders like volunteers and our connections with corporate partners.
Q. That sounds very cool and those skills sound very necessary. What piece of advice would you give to future TCF members or potential City Year AmeriCorps members?
AA: I would say to work hard and have fun. That's something that is really important when you're doing Care Force. Learning how to find joyful moments and just be able to laugh with your teammates is important. So is being able to manage your time when you are not traveling and are in the office. Also, I would advise people to be self-motivated to learn new skills, find new projects, and don't wait for everything to be handed to you. The more initiative you take, the more you’re going to get out of the program in the long run.
Q. I would say that is some very solid advice, thank you. For the next question did you have any big “aha” moments while serving with Care Force?
AA: There are two things that come to mind. First, Care Force really helped pull me away from thinking that everything needed to be perfect all the time. My experience helped me understand that there are times where you need to be focused on getting every single little detail right. And sometimes you need to be focused on getting the overall project completed and as good as it can be. Just because something isn’t perfect doesn't mean it's not good and that it wasn't successful. Even though that one line in that one mural wasn’t perfectly straight, it's still good, right? Someone's still going to enjoy the artwork. The second one was during a project at a local elementary school; we were sketching murals in the hallway when one small child walking by shouted, “they're making the school a better place, they're making the world a better place.” It’s a motivating moment when the students see us beautifying their schools and they know someone is investing in them. Even a small child can recognize that, so that was pretty amazing.
Q. Aww, that is so cute. Just two more questions. So, what City Year culture piece do you incorporate in your place of work? And if that doesn't happen, is there one that you miss that you don't find in you place to work?
AA: There is this PITW about gratitude. I always try to express gratitude and try to lead with it in my everyday life. I think once you get out of that place of gratitude you can definitely become a bit cynical and assume bad intentions of other people- both in your personal life and professional life. Gratitude is a thing I try and incorporate in my life, always.
Q. Very cool. Last question, how do you translate your City Year experience to your organization now? So how all the experience that you gained during Care Force, how do you still bring all of that into your job?
AA: I think you’d be surprised by how “soft” skills, professional skills like being on time, can go a long way. I never used to be on time before starting City Year, but it has helped me tremendously. I think at City Year overall and at Care Force specifically, we're always thinking about how to best utilize our time. Especially when you're in a school; working with students you are in class for most of the day, meeting with your lunch group, but then you also have to run an afterschool class. In Care Force, you’re always working at a high speed since there is a very tight window of time over a week that you can prep for a project. You're really learning how to use your time effectively and allow you to be incredibly efficient in a full-time role. If you're working 40 hours a week, you will probably be get done like 50 hours’ worth of work done with that work ethic.
Thank you, Akida, we truly appreciate you taking time out of your day to share your experience with us.
Thanks for joining us!