Milena Gil, proudly serving on the Acosta team at Jean Ribault High School

Here at City Year, we have ten core values that we strive to embody everyday. City Year values are meant to be the driving force behind all of our actions, the North Star to guide us through the unpredictable seas of our service. The ten core values are as followed: Service to a Cause Greater than Self; Students First, Collaboration Always; Belief in the Power of Young People; Level-Five Leadership; Ubuntu; Empathy; Teamwork; Inclusivity; Excellence; and Social Justice for All. If you would like to know more about any of these values, ask any City Year member; I can assure you they will be able to answer any questions about each of them that you might ask.

Through the City Year core values come the value bands. They are rubber wristbands that are given to every Corps member when they begin their service, as a talisman to remind us of the values that we act as representatives of. Each wristband has one of the core values written in white. They come in different colors, with the City Year colors of red, yellow, and black being the most popular. Some of us keep ours around our wrists, some around our plastic water bottles, and some of us just have ours in our pockets; almost all of us keep them close.

The value wristband is one of my favorite City Year culture pieces because of something that happened during my time at City Year Basic Training Academy (or BTA). Towards the end of BTA is the Earn Your Reds ceremony, where each school team proves that they are ready for service by being quizzed on different parts of City Year culture. One big part of the ceremony is remembering all of the values.

While I was studying for the ceremony, our Learning and Development Director, Leah Palestrant, asked how I was doing. I told her that I was good, but having trouble remembering some of the values, especially all the words in the belief value.

“Oh, that's no issue,” she said, and took her wristband off her own wrist and gave it to me. “BELIEF IN THE POWER OF YOUNG PEOPLE,” it proclaimed, surrounded in red. “You can give it back to me after you earn your reds.”

I was touched by that action. The value band served as a physical reminder of that small interaction the rest of BTA, helping me remember not just the wording of one value, but all of them. I was able to pass through the Earn Your Reds ceremony effortlessly, grinning when I gave Leah her band back. When I was given my own value band, it so happened to be my own blue “BELIEF IN THE POWER OF YOUNG PEOPLE.”

My value band is a daily reminder of the promise I made when I signed up for City Year: believe in the power of my students, my coworkers, and myself. It's one of the first things I see when I get up in the morning, and one of the last things I see when I go to bed at night. I inspire to exemplify this and all the other values every single day I serve.


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