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Empowered by Power Tools: City Year Serves with Girls at Work

Alysa’s City Year Bucket List

  1. Attend a City Year wedding
  2. Get a City Year yellow jacket from a California site
  3. Take part in a funky sock fashion show 
  4. Get picture with Charlie Rose (City Year’s Dean and resident cool guy)
  5. Go to Girls at Work
  6. See my students graduate high school… then college
  7. Join City Year New Hampshire staff
  8. Invite Ellen DeGeneres to CYNH’s Starry Starry Night Gala
  9. Attend Family Engagement Nights at all of City Year’s Manchester schools
  10. Be on the radio speaking for City Year
  11. Find another organization to get involved with in Manchester

In 2015, I committed to spending 10 months in Manchester serving with City Year as a first-year AmeriCorps member. Here we are now, into my fifth year, having had so many wonderful experiences that I can credit to City Year and City Year New Hampshire. Even though I’ve been here for five years, I’m still chasing some experiences, so I guess my time here is not done. Above, you’ll see my City Year bucket list that I’ve accumulated over the years with those things that I hope to complete while I’m still here. I’d like to draw your attention to number five, which is visiting another nonprofit in Manchester, Girls at Work.

City Year members pose at Girls at Work after a day of service

I served from 2015-2017 as an AmeriCorps member and then as a Service Leader at Bakersville Elementary School, which is a short distance from the current location of Girls at Work. Due to our walking bus, founded by my teammate Sarah Liell, I walked by Girls at Work many days and was always curious about the ongoings. Many students would participate in this Manchester-based afterschool program a few times a week. I heard my students talk about this amazing, empowering place where they learned to use power tools and build. They also spoke about Elaine, their teacher at Girls at Work, who pushed them and helped them see all their amazing potential. Through all this exposure, I really wanted to go to Girls at Work, and so I added it to my City Year Bucket List.

Fast forward to the Granite United Way Day of Caring this year on September 11, where one of the service projects was being hosted at Girls at Work. I knew it was finally time for me to visit. When the morning came, I was thrilled to walk into Girls at Work. The first thing that you see when you walk into the workroom are the signatures covering the walls. They all have messages written by students (and other visitors) about their own power, perseverance and self-worth. I saw messages like, “I can do it” and “Girls are strong” and “Who run the world? Girls.” Those messages, covering the walls, made me feel confident and ready to get to work.

And then I met Elaine. She put me and the group to work instantly, telling us to change out the batteries on our drills and change the bits as well. Never mind that I had no idea how to do that or where the supplies were. “Figure it out,” was the best advice I got. But within 10 minutes we had all the batteries and bits changed, without any assistance. She knew we could do it and insisted that we proved that to ourselves.

That first moment was an indication of how the rest of the day went. Elaine gave us brief demos and encouraged us to “figure it out” throughout the day. We were instructed, however, that mistakes are for learning and can always be fixed. Equipped with this attitude and a bunch of power tools, it was amazing how accomplished we were by the end of day. Going from not even knowing where the battery was on the drill to constructing a little library with my awesome partner was so (no pun intended) powerful. If I, as a 25-year-old woman had such an intense feeling of pride, I can only imagine what that experience does for the young ladies who move through Girls at Work.

As for my City Year bucket list, I’ve crossed off two items as a result of visiting Girls at Work; of course #5 for visiting and also #11—finding another organization to get involved with in Manchester. I will be going back to use some of the skills I’ve learned at City Year to help develop a curriculum for their afterschool program along with another City Year alum, Anna Caron. I not only got to visit Girls at Work, but I found another organization I am passionate about that I can be a part of to continue helping to transform Manchester. As for the rest of my bucket list, I guess I’ll have to work on finding Ellen’s contact info next!

City Year making little libraries at Girls at Work

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