How City Year opened unexpected doors on my professional path
My road to City Year was an unexpected one. My senior year of college, a television internship in Washington DC exposed me to a non-profit organization that helped youth understand their potential in shaping the world by learning about our country’s government. Through this experience, I saw that, when given the opportunity, young people have a lot to offer. I knew at that point that I wanted to work for an organization that empowered youth and gave students a chance to realize their unique roles in creating change and making contributions to the world. Once I saw the red jackets walking around our nation’s capital and learned about City Year’s work, I knew that I wanted to get involved in the urban education movement.
I am a first in my family college graduate and like most aspiring grads, took out a substantial amount of loans to obtain my degree. So when choosing to do City Year, my family was a little confused that I had sought out employment that would provide a modest living stipend and an education award at the end of the year. At the time, it seemed like a leap of faith, but now I cannot imagine my life without City Year. When I joined City Year, I expected to give back and to serve but I had no idea how much I would learn and grow in the process.
I received more professional development at City Year than I could have ever imagined. I was exposed to different work environments through interactions with City Year’s corporate sponsors and I was also given opportunities for career preparedness training at events like Comcast’s annual Career Day. I remember that just a few weeks into my corps year, I was leading Aramark executives from all over the world in a service project. For our project icebreaker, we all introduced ourselves in different languages. It was a City Year moment that I’ll never forget because it was the moment I first realized I was in a very special place. It was an amazing opportunity for anyone, let alone a 22-year-old recent college grad.
“I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.”
Today, I am a business Consultant with Deloitte Consulting. It is funny to think that as a corps member five years ago, I did not even know that business consulting existed. I first heard of Deloitte because of their national and local sponsorships of City Year, and learned more after participating in Deloitte’s City Year mentoring program, where Deloitte employees are matched up with corps members for professional development and trainings. When I joined City Year, I knew that I would become a mentor, but I did not realize that I would be fortunate enough to gain a few of my own in the process. When asked to describe my City Year experience, I think of a quote from President Abraham Lincoln, “I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.” I think each and every one of us places a limit on what we can achieve based on our experiences and the “norm” in our social bubbles. Sometimes all it takes is that one person to help us understand that we are capable of achieving more than we have ever imagined for ourselves. Now, when I think of the things that I’m not doing, I make sure that it is because I don’t want to do them – NOT because I never thought I could.
To the students City Year serves, each corps member is that friend, that one person they don’t want to let down. City Year plays an important role in empowering students to reach their potential by making them aware that they have potential and then holding them accountable to it.
Ubuntu – it means “I am a person through other people; my humanity is tied to yours.”
In City Year culture there is a popular Zulu Proverb, Ubuntu – it means “I am a person through other people; my humanity is tied to yours.” In the workplace, we sometimes find ourselves in situations where it’s easy to be in a room full of colleagues and to think “I’m not like them” – it’s easy to get discouraged. In consulting, I often work with clients at least twice my age and sometimes, especially in rooms with senior level executives, it can be very easy to default into a mode where you recognize how markedly different you are from your colleagues. If I ever feel this thought crossing my mind, I think of my City Year experience and the appreciation that I gained for the importance of diverse perspectives. City Year has given me the confidence to know that I deserve to be there. At City Year, I learned the true value of working on a team of diverse people. I learned how to be a mentor. I learned how to lead with ideas – instead of tasks. I learned how to not only respect – but celebrate the differences in people’s backgrounds and skills to achieve a goal. But most importantly, I learned about my responsibility to the world and how I can play a part in changing it for the better.
This past August I returned from the trip of a lifetime with an organization called Bike & Build where I co-led a group of 33 young people on a cycling trip across the country from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Vancouver, Canada to raise money and awareness for the Affordable Housing cause, a cause that is often overlooked and is related to a student’s ability to learn. I can honestly say I would have never taken this chance if it weren’t for City Year. City Year taught me to trust myself and instilled a lifetime of commitment to service in me. I have joined the other 20,000 City Year alums across the country who will carry our City Year experience and this service-oriented mindset with us for our entire lives.