Why I Served and Continue to Serve
Ray Van Allen serves as an AmeriCorps member on the North Shore Elementary School team.
I chose to serve with City Year because I wanted to spend my time after college and before graduate school giving back to others. The City Year mission spoke to me, and I feel a huge sense of fulfillment knowing that I am able to bring my time and skills to students who need my help. I know the difference that education can make in a life, and I hope that my contribution is able to make a difference in the lives of my students. I was inspired by peers who served with City Year and hearing their stories about the difference City Year makes, both in the lives of students and the lives of corps members, and I knew that it was something I needed to do.
City Year’s impact on individuals encouraged me to become an AmeriCorps member as I used my gap year to figure out what my next steps were. Through serving with City Year, I hope to gain a clearer sense of myself and what my post-graduate priorities are. I also hope to grow as a professional and improve on my own weaknesses as well as build upon my strengths. Eventually I will attend graduate school and with the assistance of my time at City Year I will be able to passionately move forward in a field that inspires me.
Due to the recent adjustments because of COVID-19, I have brought my service year home. Of all the things I had prepared myself for in my post-college life, this certainly wasn’t one of them. Despite all of its unknowns, this experience has brought a deeper meaning to one of City Year’s core values that I closely connect with. Service to a cause greater than self has been my biggest challenge as well as greatest motivator, more so now than ever. In the classroom, I was constantly trying to make daily differences that would change long-term outcomes for my students. Now, I have realized that my time with City Year is precious, and while I am not currently in the classroom, I am focusing on the parts of my service that will continue on after my current City Year. How will my service continue when I am no longer a corps member? Though I hope to come back for a second year next year, I am starting to plan for the time that comes after that.
My mindset has shifted from “here and now” to my own long-term goals. Graduate school is in my future, and I am learning how I can transfer the skills I have gained back into the world of higher education thanks to remote professional development opportunities provided by the City Year Jacksonville site as well as City Year Headquarters. Though these changes were unexpected, I am finding the brighter side in my current situation. While serving in school, I felt as if my reflections were deeply centered on looking outside of myself. Now, I have to think of my joys, ripples, and appreciations in new ways with more self-reflection than ever before. Every day is an exercise in gratefulness, and I am constantly learning to open my mindset and realize the bigger picture of what my service means to me.
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