By Matthew Berger, AmeriCorps member serving on the Northwest Elementary School Team generously supported by Comcast NBCUniversal.
It was a windy March day when City Year AmeriCorps members gathered in New Castle to prepare for our 19th annual Starry Starry Night gala at the Wentworth by the Sea. While New Hampshire natives are no strangers to a brisk Spring day, I couldn’t help but open my weather app and check the temperature back in College Park, Maryland; the city I had spent 5 years attending college, and the state I’ve lived in for the past 23 years. Even though it was only 10 degrees warmer down there, I could vividly picture college students relaxing in hammocks out on McKeldin Mall, my mom walking through the woods by our house with her two dogs, and my brother speeding down the backroads blasting his music with the windows down.
Starry Starry Night is an annual event hosted by City Year where we celebrate our service and engage our champions in meaningful dialogue. This lets us connect with those that help support us the most and allow us to continue to work in the community, and lets our supporters learn more about our service and what we do on a day to day basis.
For the past few weeks, we at City Year have been asked to reflect on where we’re from to help prepare for this year’s Starry Starry Night theme: “7 Generations.” This theme is based on an Iroquois proverb that states, “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” At the event, AmeriCorps members were asked to lead their tables through a short poetry activity during dinner called an “I am From” poem, which is an activity that City Year members and staff do to reflect on our identities and origins. Guests were asked to fill out poems with lines describing familiar sights, sounds, smells, phrases, music, and foods from their past. In addition, the last section on the activity asked them to describe their ancestors, driving home the theme of multiple generations leading us to where we are now. It was a great opportunity to hear about the “wicked awesome beaches” where the guests at my table had spent their childhood summers, sharing stories about their grandma’s clam chowder and the hardworking Polish, Irish and Italian immigrants that had brought their families over to America years ago.
The guests weren’t the only ones who shared about themselves, however, as a group of AmeriCorps members also shared their own special “I am From” poems on stage later in the night. I was honored to be a part of this presentation, to stand with fellow AmeriCorps members to present special parts of our identities. We added on to the original “I am From” format by also including lines describing why we’re here at City Year, along with examples of how our service at City Year New Hampshire is making an impact in the lives of our students. We closed out our presentation with lines about where we’re going after City Year, and how we’ll continue to serve.
The night closed out with Lifetime of Service Awards presented to Dr. Geoffery Clark & Martha Fuller Clark and Jack Middleton. All three have dedicated their lives to serving the New Hampshire community. As someone who’s in their first year of a national service position, it was inspiring to hear our honorees speak and envision my own lifetime of service ahead of me. Starry Starry Night was a wonderful opportunity to both look back at the past and connect with our future; to talk with some of our most dedicated champions, and to build a stronger community for all of us.
If you are interested in viewing more pictures from this year's Starry Starry Night, check out our photo gallery!