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A Virtual Celebration of Our 20th Anniversary

virtual graduation ceremony

Last week was a week twenty years in the making, and even though nobody could have predicted that City Year New Hampshire would be celebrating our anniversary virtually, the end of our service year showed us just how far we have come as a site and how much we have to be grateful for. On June 18, we celebrated our 20th Anniversary Corps and the conclusion of their service year at our virtual Graduation Ceremony, followed by our 20th Anniversary Celebration for alumni on Saturday, June 20th where we reconnected with our corps from across the years.

Celebrating our 20th Anniversary Corps – virtually!

Our annual Graduation Ceremony is already a significant moment for our corps and our site. It’s the conclusion to the service year, the event where we honor all our amazing AmeriCorps members have accomplished, and welcome the newest corps to our alumni community. This year, however, was even more significant because of the challenges of coronavirus and remote service, the opportunity of holding our ceremony virtually, and because of the current social justice and anti-racism activism happening both within City Year and across our nation.

“When I think back about this year, I think: wow, what a year it has been,” said Pawn Nitichan, Executive Director of City Year New Hampshire in her address to the corps. “This year, aside from being one of the most challenging years to City Year, has also been a milestone year for us, as we are celebrating our 20th Anniversary year here in New Hampshire. We, together at City Year New Hampshire, have come a long, long way from our humble beginning. We have accomplished so much. We have provided support to thousands of students and helped them do better in school and in life, and we created opportunities for hundreds of young people to help them grow and build relationships that I believe will last a lifetime. Yet we still have a long road ahead.”

Throughout the event we heard from many of the significant figures in our year, including Dr. Chris Matthews of Southern New Hampshire University, City Year staff member and alumna Emerald Anderson-Ford, state representative and alumnus Matt Whilhelm, former Managing Director of Impact Heather Kiley, CYNH board member Barry Brensinger, and our elected officials Mayor Joyce Craig, Governor Chris Sununu, Senator Maggie Hassan, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Representative Annie Kuster, and Representative Chris Pappas. Our keynote speaker, Dr. Adrian Haugabrook, Executive Vice President at Southern New Hampshire University and City Year New Hampshire board member, shared his thoughts on the value of continuing to serve. “Service is not a time-stamped commitment,” he said. “It is a duty and an obligation. So now that you have donned the City Year uniform, you no longer can be just casual citizen servants. You must be dutiful and obligated servants.”

Watch our Graduation Ceremony on Facebook here!

Niki Navarro presents at City Year New Hampshire virtual graduation

“As City Year AmeriCorps members, we commit to dedicating our time, energy and effort to the cause of service while knowing that we will often not see the long-term effects of the work we put in with our students,” said Service Leader Niki Navarro, this year’s Comcast Leadership and Sprit of City Year award winner. “Some say this is the hardest part of the job. However, I believe that not knowing how our students will grow up can be a beautiful sentiment. You have to believe that they can survive without you and even thrive without you. And sometimes we don’t get to see the end result, and maybe that’s ok, because it isn’t about us. We all dedicated months of time, energy and empathy to fight for these causes among many others, and that is the meaning of the value ‘Service to a Cause Greater than Self.’”

Without a doubt, the 60 AmeriCorps members who graduated on Thursday have made a meaningful difference in the lives of others this year, and will continue to do so after City Year. We were proud and excited to welcome them into our 600-member strong CYNH alumni community, and to invite them to our much-anticipated 20th Anniversary Celebration on June 20th.

Reuniting with our alumni community

While initially intended as an in-person weekend of reuniting and celebrating all things City Year, we brought the same energy and excitement to the virtual space on Saturday. The day-long event featured a moving community meeting, a Beloved Community Strong Circle discussion space hosted by past and present CYNH Executive Directors Alex Allen and Pawn Nitichan focusing on City Year’s supports of alumni in anti-racism work, a riveting CYNH-themed trivia competition, and an event finale with the announcement of our Idealism Cup winning house: House Starfish! The event was followed by a reunion hour where alumni reconnected with their peers by corps year.

City Year New Hampshire 20th Anniversary community meeting

The day had powerful, exciting, silly, serious, reflective, joyful, and heartfelt moments throughout, but most important was the strong sense of community created even in a virtual space. CYNH alumni from the founding corps to our newest members have remained committed to being change agents and staying involved both with City Year and their current communities. This year our alumni community sponsored the second Alumni Sponsored Team in our site’s history by raising over $100,000, demonstrating their continued investment in the Manchester community in an effort only seen at City Year New Hampshire. We could not be more proud of our alumni family, or more honored to count them as key members in our site’s history and future.

The past week demonstrated exactly what City Year New Hampshire is about. With all the unpredictability, injustices, and challenges we face in the world, we come together as a community to honor and celebrate each other and the service we have provided against all odds. As we close out the 20th Anniversary year, I am personally reminded of the Sand into Diamonds founding story. Our pockets were overflowing with sand this year, and yet each member of this community committed to walking out of this desert together. It was not easy, and our long walk is not over yet, but I like to think that each of our pockets is gradually trading sand for diamonds. From the struggle we gained memories, friendships, relationships, skills, wisdom, and ever-increasing empathy. I am certain we will see those diamonds shining brightly in these next 20 years and beyond.


City Year New Hampshire continues to serve Manchester students to ensure they have the tools and resources they deserve to succeed even during the pandemic. To support our mission, give today.


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