2015-04-16

By Max Mays, AmeriCorps Member, Heinemann and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Supported Team, 
Serving at Henry Wilson Elementary School 

One of the greatest aspects of being a City Year Corps Member is being able to work with colleagues who have a diverse breadth of interests. In my corps, future educators work alongside aspiring doctors, business people, and politicians alike. The alumni network of City Year reflects this fantastic variance. After graduation, Corps Members venture off to far off places and exotic fields. One such City Year Alum, Brandon Chaderton, has traded in his red jacket for a suit and tie. Brandon is currently employed as the Director of Member Services at the Pennsylvania House Democratic Campaign Committee. As the Director of Member Services, Brandon is tasked with getting Democrats elected to the Pennsylvania Legislature. Despite being a huge departure from City Year both in mission and culture, Brandon enjoys his current position. I was fortunate enough to speak with Brandon about his new profession. He spoke extensively about the parallels between politics and City Year and gave advice to current Corps Members hoping to maximize their experience.  

How has City Year prepared you for a career in politics?

One of the broadest, and most obvious ways City Year prepares you for the world of politics is through service.  Too often politics is seen as self-serving rather than a public service.  While it is true that politics can be seen as a "dirty" business, there are plenty of folks in the field who legitimately believe they are serving the people and work hard every day to make the lives of their constituents better.  City Year instills a certain level of civic responsibility, which encourages corps members and staff alike to serve their community on a regular basis.  For me, that translates into electioneering.  And while my commitment to service did not start with City Year, throughout my five years at the organization, it certainly helped broaden my perspective on the type of service that is out there.  

What similarities are there between the public service performed in City Year and the public service performed in politics?

I think at the heart of each is doing work for others.  Each day is a new challenge to better the lives of every day people; for me average Pennsylvanians.  Whether that's by actually helping craft legislation to better the Commonwealth or working tirelessly to get the right people elected, there's a common thread.  I think more to the point though, is the continuous face-to-face interactions with people in the community Listening to their issues, collaborating with them and then working for them.  Specifically, I think these interactions help create a partnership between the public and those who wish to serve them.  

Are there any skills that have applied to both City Year and politics?

I also think that while it may not always be expressly stated, the idea of public speaking, closely listening and working with others is a vast bridge between the world of politics and City Year.  Throughout my time at City Year, I never had a day that I wasn't working with others, negotiating an outcome that served all parties best, or advocating for my corps members.  That's exactly what public service entails in politics.

What advice do you have for Corps Members who want to make the most of their year of service?

Win the Day!  I used to give my corps members this mantra.  Whether that's helping your student learn a new math method or introducing yourself to the Senior VP at Aramark, win the day.  It's simple, clean and open to a host of possibilities only limited to your own imagination.  Take advantage of every single opportunity afforded to you.  Too often corps members miss out on opportunities to learn a new skill, make a networking connection or advance themselves outside of City Year.  Ten months flies by.  Yes you're tired.  Yes it's cold and dark.  Yes sometimes it seems like you're taking one step forward and two steps back.  It's all part of the experience.  Meet new people; don't be afraid to introduce yourself to someone new.  City Year gives so many advantages to corps members in and outside work to advance their careers after your term of service.  Don't squander them.

How do you suggest that Corps Members maintain perspective during their year of service?

Your year is first and foremost about service in the community of Manchester; never forget why you're here.  Every day you see a students' face, it should renew you with hope and optimism for their future.  But it's also your year and your growth.  If the only reason you're in City Year is to make the lives better in only this community, you're doing yourself and those around you a disservice. Define winning today in your own way and strive to never lose.  If you do, that's ok. You can always win the day tomorrow.

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