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Twenty months of gratitude

Tessa Delgo is Team Leader on the Wells Fargo team at Edward H. White High School.

I am entering my twentieth month serving with City Year, so I believe I can deftly articulate its place in my life. I tried encapsulating it with a connection to a PITW (Putting Idealism To Work), which are a collection of City Year wisdom that guide our work, or a student success story that defined my experience. However, by far the most valuable part of my past twenty months is the relationships I had the privilege to build, and I can’t think of anything more necessary to write about than my gratitude for them.

To my partner teacher, who believed a five-foot-tall eighteen-year-old could be a beneficial part of the classroom he’d been cultivating for nineteen years. I don’t know that anyone else would have (or should have) put that much blind faith in me, but I like to believe (or at least hope) that I poured a lot of my heart into trying to earn it the past two years. That classroom is one of my favorite places, and Mr. Ulmer is one of my favorite people. He does not care what anyone thinks of him and is possibly the most authentic person I’ve ever met. He inspires me to be more honest, both with others and myself. I couldn’t thank him enough for being my teacher.

To Ed White High School, for always encouraging community and always trying to be better. I have seen everything from FAFSA nights to evening belly-dancing to the planting of a new church, alongside of course, everyday school, occur within the walls of that campus and there’s something uniquely beautiful about that to me.

To the four City Year roommates I have had over these two years, for always being my sounding boards. To the two I live with now, for always letting me host potlucks without much notice, for dealing with the abundance of hair I unintentionally shed, and for being one of my iterations of home.

To my first team, for being my biggest role models. Quintin for buying me coffee for no reason, and for being an exemplar of humility and the coolest guy I know. Jae for making me laugh basically every day and for always speaking her truth. Becca for inspiring me to work harder and find joy in simple things, and for watching Riverdale with me every week. Mason for reading East of Eden and being proof that people, like City Year, are not always what you think they are. Maddy for bringing a lifetime’s worth of joy and light into just five months. Manuela for being a huge Duke fan and an even bigger Tessa fan. I was lucky to stand amongst giants for ten months and even luckier to now stand on their shoulders.

To my Impact Manager and longest-standing teammate. I always wanted an older brother, but in what can only be described as a divine intervention (or karma for petty crimes in a past life…), I got a boss/friend/brother hybrid instead. I sincerely hope he spends his life helping people become better versions of themselves, because he is remarkably good at it, but more than that I hope that we’re best friends forever. Intermittently.

To my current team, for enabling the most exciting job I will ever have. The fact that my job description is to build relationships with six random people and help them through this crazy experience is an incredibly ridiculous privilege, even when it feels like frustration. Morgan for influencing my music taste for the past year and exhibiting some of the most ardent commitment to personal improvement I’ve ever seen. Jordan for teaching me new things every day and exuding loyalty. Denny for always finding joy in the strangest of tasks and telling me stories about his dogs. Gigi for having the most creative ideas that make me re-think the way that I look at things. Veronique for relentlessly seeking new solutions and always taking a moment to dance. Jas for being kind-hearted on her most tired days and her unwavering sisterhood. Thanks for sticking around.

To my kids, who make me want to be a better person. For playing cards with me, putting up with my jokes, calling me out when I am not at my best, pretending like they care about quadratics for an hour a day, and letting me be a part of their lives. I haven’t taken a day off this year, which people think is crazy, but I honestly can’t think of something I’d rather be doing that would make me feel better about being alive than being around a bunch of sixteen-year-olds that remind me where my heart is.

There’s plenty of people that should be included in here that are not, but thank you to all of them, too. In describing my City Year experience, I’m notorious for one Teddy Roosevelt quote: “Far and away one of the best gifts that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” While I believe that is true on its own, I’d argue to add that the very best gift that life has to offer is the chance to do that work alongside people worth doing it with.

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