By Seamus McGuire, AmeriCorps Member, Alumni Sponsored Team,
Serving at Parker Varney Elementary School
Recently, I had the chance to sit down with City Year NH Alumni Board Chair, Paul Riley. Paul is a great guy and I had the pleasure of interviewing with him about his life and how City Year has played a part in it.
I had recently seen Paul at City Year New Hampshire’s 18 minute networking event. At this event corps members were given the opportunity to meet past alumni and other members of the community who are from a variety of different professions. After our introductions Paul was quick to point out how successful he thought CYNH 18 minute networking was, and I couldn’t agree more with him. Paul was happy with the large turnout saying that, “Every year I’ve been able to come back and it looked like Melissa took into account everyone’s interest, to get so many people from so many backgrounds.”
I asked about how he first got involved with City Year. Paul talked about how he found out about City Year while attending Elmira College through a friend who was an AmeriCorps VISTA. After Paul graduated he was accepted into CYNH and in the fall of 2009 he moved to the seacoast of NH and started his first year of service. One of the things Paul was really adamant about was the diversity of the corps members that he worked with. While Paul had just graduated from college, some of his teammates were just out of high school or from backgrounds that he had never experienced before. This diversity is still present today and is one of the things that makes City Year so special. Thinking of the future Paul hopes that City Year will continue on in the tradition of diversity. He said, “If they can keep that while making schools better, it’s unstoppable!” Paul talked about how age diversity has its benefits as well. Paul mentioned how some of his younger teammates could help in reaching different students. “My teammate Diane (18 years old at the time) was able to reach students in different ways than I. We were able to complement each other.”
As the Alumni Board Chair, Paul’s job is to meet with the other CYNH Alumni Board members to help recruit alumni and to gain their support. But this is not Paul’s only role. He currently lives in Boston, MA working as a National External Engagement Manager for the non-profit, Citizen Schools. Citizen Schools is a great organization that has, as Paul describes it, “A lot of City Year crossover.” Citizen Schools’ mission is to close the “opportunity gap” where middle school students in low income neighborhoods are given the opportunity to have a longer learning day, exposing students who want to learn to adults who want to teach them.
Even though Paul enjoys his new job he still makes time for City Year. I asked Paul, “What keeps you coming back to City Year over the years?” He started by first explaining his role on the alumni board. “At the board meeting I feel at home with the Alumni. It’s just a group of people who are extremely funny, compassionate, and smart. They’ve become my friends with whom I love spending time with.” he said. In regard to the current generation of corps members, Paul says, “The new corps is so thoughtful. It’s incredible to see you guys. You all were able to take something that we were just hinting on in my service year and are making it better. You all rejuvenate me!”
I wanted to ask Paul was advice for corps members as we transition into the final leg of the year. Paul pointed out that by now, “You have all been trained, and gotten your feet wet. You have the tools, it’s time to polish and refine what you’ve learned. There’s going to be a lot of excitement. You have a lot of events coming up like camps and starry, starry night, and Global Youth Service day, and then before you know it it’s May.” Paul was also quick to emphasize that it’s not going to be easy. “It’s important for you to take time for yourself. It’s going to be hard. It’ll be hard for your team, you’ll all see the end. It can be a draining journey though, so make sure to have space from your team at times, but also make sure that you’re there for your team.” he said.
My interview with Paul was very informative. He touched on a lot of things that as a corps member, I have personally experienced and seen. He also brought to light his humble beginnings at City Year and made me realize that corps members have come a long way in terms of how we operate at schools, and where we work. But it also made me realize that the merits and character skills that I have developed this year will continue with me for the rest of my life. Paul left me with one last bit that I think will ring true for anyone who serves, or has served at City Year. He told me, “You want to be able to look back on this experience as one of the most important years of your life.”