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Northeastern Civic Engagement Summit (NECES)

The Northeastern Civic Engagement Summit (NECES) is a conference for Civic Engagement (CE) teams across the country to come together to share best practices, get inspired, and build community. It was started in 2012 by the New York Civic Engagement (NYCE) team which included Care Force Reserve and CYDC staff alum Ylia Wilson. This year it was once again held in New York City and graciously hosted by NYCE. Despite the name of the event, this year it took on more of a national conference with teams attending from as far away as Los Angeles and Seattle. In fact, it was the first year that the CE members from LA, Seattle, and Chicago were able to join, bringing the total to eight City Year sites, including Team Care Force, that were in attendance. Without Summer Academy for Senior AmeriCorps members, this was a rare opportunity to bring the CE network together. This Summit is doubly unique because the conference is facilitated mostly by the AmeriCorps Members themselves as opposed to their managers. After a few weeks of office work, it was a lot of fun to get to travel again. I was excited to meet all the teams, reconnect with Care Force Reserves from past events, and participate in the various sessions. Thanks to Hosteling International, while in New York, we were given free accommodations at a hostel on the upper East side of Manhattan with the other CE teams. This is a partnership that City Year has maintained for a number of years, and we were extremely grateful to be a part of it.

Team Care Force poses in front of The Vessel at Hudson Yards in New York.
TCF (not pictured Johanny Tejada) at “The Vessel” courtesy of Molly Rogers

The first day included several sessions including a panel on transferrable skills and a session on coordinator roles. I especially enjoyed the transferrable skills panel as it featured current City Year staff members, some of whom were City Year alumni. The members of the panel did an excellent job explaining how skills gained from CE experience could make us attractive candidates for future jobs. It can be a challenge describing our work to folks outside City Year, especially how that work can translate to other professions. It was informative to learn how to communicate these transferable skills. The coordinator group session allowed us to share ideas for improving things like mural designs and leading volunteers. As someone who works on the social media working group for Care Force, I was amazed about how much information the other teams offered in terms of how they structured their social media platforms, their ideas for content, and various tips and tricks for improving posts. The first day also featured an Ubuntu walk, an exercise based on City Year’s adoption of the idea of Ubuntu, which stresses the interconnectedness of the human community. Two people who usually haven’t talked much either go on a physical walk or pick somewhere to sit and discuss any topic they want to understand each other better. I took my Ubuntu walk with a member of the Los Angeles Civic Engagement Team, Siecuna. We discussed all the places we’ve traveled to, both domestically and abroad, and what we had learned about people from those experiences. We wrapped up our first day by taking a trip to see “The Vessel” in Hudson Yards. While the wind made the climb up more of a trek than we expected, the sights from the top made it all worth it. Afterward we met up with other CE teams to hang out and get to know each other on a more personal level.

Group photo from the NECES conference
Group Photo courtesy of NYCE

The second and final day included a DBIE Panel and a troubleshooting gallery walk. The panel was informative and made me think more about how I, and Care Force as a whole, approach our work. We work to beautify spaces in under-resourced communities, and the session made me want to be more intentional about trying to change the narrative around those communities. The troubleshooting gallery walk introduced a lot of topics such as creating more sensory murals and being more intentional about addressing privilege on teams. We capped off the summit with a reflection circle where each person shared what the conference meant to them. I said that I felt really inspired working with and listening to people so passionate about physical service and doing good in the world. In all, it was a fun and productive trip, and I loved the variety of the sessions and meeting so many amazing people who shared their stories.

If planned beforehand, we often get the opportunity to extend our stay before or after events, so I asked to stay for the weekend after the summit ended. I stayed with a good friend in Brooklyn where we spent the weekend traveling throughout the borough, including a visit to the shop where the show “Hot Ones” gets its hot sauce. I left New York more invigorated and ready to begin a new round of events for the spring.

Civic Engagement members stand in a circle and hold string that forms a twisted web to illustrate the connections formed.
Reflection Circle courtesy of NYCE

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