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ALUMNI PROFILE: Why Stefanie Vestal Always Puts Service Above Self

Written By Jewels Dabdub, AmeriCorps Member

 

City Year AmeriCorps Member. Senior Corps Member. Alumni Board Member. Impact Manager. Classroom Teacher.

“City Year has been the backbone of my life,” explains Stefanie Vestal, who is now a graduate student at the Clinton School of Public Service. “I simply can’t imagine what my life would look like without it.”

Stefanie’s City Year journey started at Bentley College near Boston. She was always passionate about service and involved in community service clubs. One of these clubs, Circle K, volunteered at City Year events, where Stefanie saw firsthand the impact national service has on a community.

During her senior year of college, Stefanie debated joining the Peace Corps, but her heart truly belonged to national service. She applied for City Year in 2005, selecting the “Serve Where Most Needed” option. She served her first year at City Year Rhode Island (now City Year Providence) and then transferred to City Year D.C. for her second year of service.

In D.C., she worked on her passion project Young Heroes, a service-learning program for middle and high school students held on Saturdays. Every session had a social justice theme and topic. The students learned about the topic and applied their knowledge to service projects at their schools and community. “I loved how it sparked a passion for service at a young age,” says Stefanie. “Often, a student would join Young Heroes as a freshman and be inspired to apply for City Year once they graduated. It was great to have that kind of impact.”

After six years at City Year D.C., Stefanie felt called to the classroom. She applied for positions in Rhode Island and was hired on a provisional license strictly due to her AmeriCorps experience. “The principal took one look at my resume and said, ‘AmeriCorps Experience. Hired!’ I spent the next two years earning my full teaching license while getting classroom experience as a teacher – all thanks to City Year.”

Even though she was teaching, Stefanie couldn’t stay away from City Year. She co-chaired the CYDC Alumni Board and served on the National Alumni Board for three years, rotating off right before the pandemic. In 2022, she moved to Little Rock to pursue a master’s degree in public service. “One of the first things I did was reach out to the Little Rock site to volunteer,” she says. “I’ve co-hosted alumni gatherings, spoken to the corps during learning and development days, and am now training corps members to host service days for corporate sponsors. They’re stuck with me!”

Stefanie is a prime example of how service at City Year shapes an entire career. She continues to connect with like-minded people who have served in the City Year programs after and before her service. “There’s a special connection between corps members,” she says. “I’ll always be tied to this organization, and I will always put service above self.”

Stefanie’s Starfish Story

While serving at City Year Rhode Island, Stefanie met a young girl who was active in the Young Heroes program. She always put immense effort into whatever she was doing and kept an upbeat attitude about service work. One day the student did not have a ride home, so Stefanie offered her a ride. Vestal drove to her house and quickly realized no parents were home. The young girl was responsible for feeding her siblings that night, so Stefanie decided to take them out to dinner. During their dinner conversation, Stefanie learned the kids’ mother had a lot of struggles and was with an abusive boyfriend. Stefanie was inspired by this girl’s unrelenting passion for succeeding and helping others despite her personal situation. With the help of City Year staff, Stefanie found resources and assistance for the family.

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