A City Year is more than just a gap year
After my senior year of high school, my parents really wanted me to take a gap year. Service and giving back to the community are a big part of how I was raised. My friends and family were familiar with City Year and its mission to help prepare students with the social, emotional and academic skills and mindsets to succeed in school and in life. Once I decided to take a gap year and apply, they were very supportive even though it meant moving to New York City on my own.
TAKING A GAP YEAR WITH CITY YEAR
I was 18 when I started my AmeriCorps year, and I was a little intimidated at first. Most of the other AmeriCorps members on my team were recent college graduates, so I felt like I had a lot to learn. I quickly realized that while I didn't have the same academic credentials as my teammates, I still had something to contribute to my team and my students. During high school, I attended and tutored students in Washington, D.C., so I had relevant real-world experiences in terms of what it would be like to serve as an AmeriCorps member.
I think it was helpful to have my perspective as a recent high school graduate on the team because many of my team members had forgotten what middle school was like. This made me really confident and still helps me to remember that my life experiences are important, relevant and unique assets I can bring to the table in my college career and beyond.
Gain experience working on a diverse team
The thing I loved most about being an AmeriCorps member was working with my team. Although I'd interacted with many different types of people, I had never worked with so many people of different ages, who came from all over the country. I had a very impressive team, who went on to impressive careers-two went to law school, four went to medical school, two went on to graduate school for teaching/education, one went to teach abroad, and one started a career with City Year. Because of our varying aspirations and interests, everyone brought their own perspectives and strengths to the table. It also really helped that everyone spoke different languages and had studied different subjects in college.
A Gap Year Like No Other
One of the biggest things I learned from my experience is that doing a gap year with City Year isn't what some may imagine a gap year is like. It's different than traveling or doing part-time work. City Year is full-time and you will work harder than you ever have before. You will also mature, gain valuable skills and meet some of the most compassionate teammates who will become your lifelong best friends, all while devoting yourself to a cause greater than self. City Year is the motivation and focus you need after high school to find out which field you're passionate about, whether you want to go to college or take an alternate path.
If you are passionate about social justice and equal opportunity, and willing to invest 50-55 hours a week of frustrating, emotional, but incredibly rewarding work, seriously consider applying to City Year! It's not easy, but you will meet some of the best people, have a better idea of what you want to do in life, and truly find about your passions and values.
Learn more about service with City Year:
Editorial note: This post was originally published in January 2019. It’s been revised and reformatted to ensure information is up-to-date.
Michael Stevens is currently senior vice president and executive director of City Year D.C. He was honored with the 2022...Read more about Celebrating mentor and City Year alum Michael Stevens
Nicole Tsang is a City Year New York alum and current City Year National staff member. She was honored with...Read more about Celebrating City Year alum Nicole Tsang
City Year AmeriCorps members are transforming math anxiety into math confidence every day through social-emotional learning.Read more about How social-emotional supports build math confidence
Compass Academy, a charter public school in Denver, is thriving by holistically supporting its middle school students, many of whom...Read more about Compass Academy develops leaders and learners