By Aaron Griffith, City Year AmeriCorps Member, Serving at McDonough Elementary School
From December 8-10, nine corps members and I had the opportunity to travel to City Year Headquarters in Boston to represent City Year New Hampshire at the 2014 Northeast Leadership Academy. At NELA, about fifty corps members from four different sites –New Hampshire, Boston, Providence, and for the first time, New York –come together for three days of leadership development and community building. From discussing the fun differences between each site’s culture and quirks to exploring the beautiful building of headquarters to breaking bread with new, friendly faces, it was truly a powerful and inspirational time, and it is likely my favorite experience at City Year thus far.
The days at NELA are jam-packed with different activities, workshops, and speakers. I had the opportunity to serve as the team leader for one of the learning teams and it was such a great opportunity to grow closer with a smaller group of corps members from each site. We engaged in powerful conversations through our Idealist Journey sessions, shared some best practices in the different aspects of being a leader at City Year, and had fun with team building energizers and activities. All participants at NELA had the opportunity to attend two workshops of their choosing from a list including Giving and Receiving Feedback, Understanding Conflict, Dimensions of Success, Team Dynamics, Leading Peers, and Adaptive Leadership. Through these, we were able to focus on different dimensions of leadership and how we can build upon our own skills and learn from the strengths of others.
I believe that the most powerful part of NELA came from the people. We had the privilege of hearing from and talking with a variety of important leaders in the City Year community, including Jamaal Williams, Beth Bryant, Nikki Tabron, Andy Dean, Bobby Kessling, Andrea Ricotta, Chris Plummer, Alex Allen, Stephen Spaloss, Charlie Rose, and CEO and Co-Founder Michael Brown. These people bestowed such wisdom and encouragement for all participants as we were inspired by their journeys and actions. Next, the staff for NELA created such a great environment to engage in this type of conference, from providing excellent food to having an evening called “Big Night,” where corps members were able to perform and express parts of their City Year experience thus far. Ultimately, what made NELA such an awesome experience was all fifty of the first year corps members. Everyone came with a willingness to share their powerful insight, an openness to learn from each other, a heart full of grace, a smile on their face, a mind ready to serve, a positive can-do attitude, and a soul generated by love. For this, I will forever be grateful and I look forward to ripple out all that I have learned with my CYNH community so that we can all share in the experience.