On September 12th, the entire City Year New Hampshire site gathered for an incredibly significant moment in our service year: the Red Jacket Dedication Ceremony. Each AmeriCorps and staff member receives their red jacket on this occasion and dedicates their jacket to a person, idea, or cause that inspires them to show up as their best selves every day of service. Our Red Jacket Dedication blog series features stories from our AmeriCorps members on what inspires them to put on their red jacket every day and deliver excellent service. You can read our first installment here.
By Lindsay Veilleux, AmeriCorps member serving on the Beech Street Elementary School Team.
When I applied to City Year last October, I could not stop thinking about receiving my own red jacket. To me, it symbolized all of what City Year is: idealistic, passionate, and most importantly, impactful. Being the person in the red jacket seemed like an exciting opportunity to make a difference in the community, but it also seemed a little nerve-wracking due to the high expectations that come with wearing it. Flash forward to almost a year later, the feelings of excitement and slight anxiety remain, but with that comes immense pride. Putting on my own City Year bomber for the first time was electrifying, and the dedication that came right before was incredibly precious to me.
I chose to dedicate my red jacket to showing up for other people, and to three of my loved ones who taught me how to do that.
The first person I dedicated my jacket to is Aileen. Aileen and I were great friends in middle school. One of the best memories I have with her is pushing her around our school’s walk-a-thon. We spent the whole day in the sun laughing and doing wheelies, and then laughing more when the wheelies didn’t work out.
During our second year of high school, Aileen became sick. We texted back and forth while she was in the hospital. I consistently asked if I could come visit her, but her response was always, “No, I will be home soon.” Aileen never came home. She never let me visit. In the last week of her life, she texted me back and said that she was okay. She showed up for me and comforted me, while she was the one wearing the hospital gown. Aileen taught me how to show up for other people by always putting others before herself, and I hope to emulate her over the course of my service year.
A second friend that I dedicated my red jacket to is Diana. Like Aileen, Diana and I were great friends in middle school. Playing on the basketball team together is my favorite memory with her. We unfortunately fell out of contact halfway through high school. During our senior year, Diana took her own life. I struggled with this loss, mostly because I didn’t know Diana was experiencing such turmoil. How could I have missed it? Why did I stop checking in with her?
Ultimately, I learned from Diana that showing up for others never ends. I was not there for her when she needed someone to be there for her. I want to carry this lesson with me this year, showing up for others the way I should have showed up for Diana.
The third person I have dedicated my red jacket to is my grandfather, Joe McBride. My grandpa was the most stubborn man I knew as well as the most selfless man I knew. He never turned down an event invitation from his twelve grandchildren, consistently showing up for me, my siblings, and my cousins. Grandpa also found great joy in being a school bus driver during his retirement years. He said hello to every kid who climbed up the steps of his school bus, and he waved goodbye to every parent who remained on the sidewalk.
Sadly, my grandpa passed away at the end of August, but even on his deathbed, he was teasing us and making jokes. He squeezed my hand, winked at me, and stuck out his tongue, remaining his true, fun-loving self until the day he died. I hope to honor his spirit every day by showing up for my students and by being a cheery and kindhearted role model.
When thinking about my red jacket dedication, all three of these compassionate people instantly popped into my head. It took me a while to decipher the common theme woven through all of our relationships. Now, I am so thankful to have three inspiring people who taught me what it means to show up for others. Whenever I zip up my City Year bomber, I will think about Aileen, Diana, and my wonderful grandpa. I hope I can make all of them very proud this year by showing up for each one of my students and coworkers.
Be sure to read our other Red Jacket Dedication blogs!
To Future Generations by Kelsi Bucknam, Northwest Elementary School Team
Remembering Those Who Supported Me by William Farley, Parker-Varney Elementary School Team