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Dedicating my Red Jacket to my Mother

At the start of each year, each City Year site holds a Red Jacket Dedication ceremony where every City Year AmeriCorps and staff member receives their red jacket and dedicates it to a person, idea, or cause that inspires them to serve. 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. 

Jenn O’Brien is a first-year corps member serving at the Middle School at Parkside

When I was first told that I would have the opportunity to dedicate my red jacket to someone who inspires my service, I immediately knew who I would choose. Although I’ve been lucky enough to have a collection of incredible teachers and mentors over the course of my life, no one quite compares to my first and greatest role model; my mom. My mom has always been my biggest supporter and continues to be my inspiration in service as I put on my red jacket every day to serve the students of Manchester with City Year New Hampshire. As an educator herself, my mom has taught me everything I know about supporting students and has shaped me into the person that I am today.

Growing up, I remember watching my mom correct papers and listening to her recount particularly funny comments from students, but in March I was able to witness her teaching in a whole new way when suddenly, the coronavirus pandemic meant her fifth-grade class was streaming right from our living room. This transition was difficult and left her and many other educators across the country at a loss for how best to continue teaching, but instead of giving up, she continued to look for ways to do more and better for her students. Every Thursday morning for the remainder of the school year, she hosted joke days with her class to lift their spirits and her laughter would ring throughout our house. Watching her experience so much joy in her profession even in the midst of global chaos spoke volumes to her commitment to education and service of students, a commitment that I have tried to replicate in my role with City Year. As a kid, I wanted to be a teacher like my mom but over the years as I discovered different passions and strengths, my certainty faded. Starting college, I decided to study engineering, but after a summer experience working with students from Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood after my freshman year, I was reminded of the aspirations of my younger self and shifted my academic path to align with my renewed interest in education, eventually switching my majors to Sociology and Education Studies. When my University announced it would remain remote for the upcoming academic year due to COVID-19, I decided to take a leave of absence from school and do something meaningful, and City Year seemed to be the perfect fit. I already know that I want to follow in my mom’s footsteps in more ways than one but I’m excited for this opportunity to serve and explore whether a career as a classroom teacher is right for me.

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The start of this service year has been filled with uncertainty as schools across the country continue to grapple with what learning looks like amidst this pandemic, but my mom has been there to talk me through every step of the way. She is a fifth-grade teacher and as I was also placed to serve in a 5th Grade classroom we have been exchanging notes on how to best support our students. When Manchester transitioned into the hybrid model in October, my Mom’s school had already done hybrid for a month, and she was able to ease some of my fears and remind me how much students need to be in school as long as they can be there safely. As we commiserate over the difficulties of technology and keeping students engaged on virtual platforms we also try to spend time in the creative solution space together sharing digital templates, tools, and best practices for engaging with students. It has been so valuable to have a thought partner like her, especially given that our students are at the same developmental level, working through similar academic content.

In dedicating my red jacket to my Mom, I want to channel and remember her commitment to her students whenever I put on my jacket. My first few months of service have shown me that doing this work is not always easy, but in the challenging moments I think of my mom who has showed up for her students for the past 20+ years. Her consistent dedication to this work inspires me to dedicate myself to this year of service and continue to make the most of every day that I get to put on my red jacket and serve the students at the Middle School at Parkside.


This is the second instalment in our Red Jacket Dedication series exploring what inspires our AmeriCorps members to put on the red jacket and serve. Read part one of this series below

City Year AmeriCorps member and student at schoolMy Red Jacket Dedication: To the American Youth Foundation and Enkindling our Best Self

Read part one.


Interested in applying to City Year? Start your application or connect with a recruiter today:

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