2015-05-21

On Wednesday, May 13th, 500 AmeriCorps Members, staff, alumni and City Year New York champions gathered for the 12th annual Ripples of Hope Gala to celebrate another year of impactful service in New York City public schools. For the AmeriCorps Members who spent their days in some of the city’s most underserved public school buildings, the sight of so many supporters in one room was inspiring:  “It's amazing to see the amount of support and community City Year has in New York," said Meira Kiel, Team Leader and AmeriCorps Member at PS 204Q. 

Jeremy Kroll, CYNY Board Chair and Co-Founder & CEO of K2 Intelligence, kicked off the evening by revealing the theme of the night, “The Power of the Red Jacket”, and the importance behind the presence of a welcoming AmeriCorps Member in a City Year jacket within a school. “When we get together,” he said, “It looks a little something like this...” Suddenly, 75 AmeriCorps Members emerged from the back of the room and danced their way through the crowd to “Uptown Funk” beats, filling the room with a sea of red bomber jackets.

Following a short impromptu and free form dance party, Jeremy pulled the room back to a more serious tone, speaking to attendees about the need for red jackets in NYC schools:  “Imagine the kind of future you envision for yourself when poverty is your birthright. In communities like these, there are tens of thousands of children who are more likely NOT to graduate from high school. At City Year, we know that not graduating makes you 3 times more likely to be unemployed and 6 times more likely to be incarcerated. These are outcomes that neither these students, nor this city, nor this country can afford to bear.”

Jeremy spoke to the need for expanding City Year’s work in New York, and introduced a video from the National Gala Sponsor, Bain Capital.

Jonathon Lavine, Managing Partner and Chief Investment Officer of Sankaty Advisors and City Year’s National Board Chair, supplemented Jeremy’s remarks by saying: “While geography brought City Year and Bain Capital together - as both organizations were founded and are headquartered in Boston - it is a shared passion for creative problem solving that has kept the bond tight over more than twenty years.”

A big thank you to Bain Capital for their national sponsorship and for investing in our AmeriCorps Members work!

The rest of the evening was filled with the stories and experiences of AmeriCorps Members. We heard from Rachel Genao, an AmeriCorps Member at PS 345K in East New York, who talked about how, in school, she struggled to find her voice within the classroom.

We heard an interview from Erika Flores, former AmeriCorps Member and current Program Manager at John Ericcson Middle School with her former student, Andy. The two reminisced about tension during their first meeting, and the ways in which they both gradually came to trust each other. Although Andy was off track in both English and Math when he met Erika in 8th grade, with her help he is thriving in high school and on the path for college success.  “I wouldn’t be sitting here today if it weren’t for Miss Erika and City Year,” Andy said.

In another AmeriCorps Member’s testimonial, Greg Valdivia, explained an interaction with one of his students at PS 48x in which the student struggled to connect to his English-speaking teachers and peers:  “Speaking with him in Spanish that first day, he was struggled to identify the color, ‘brown’. He instinctively resorted to saying ‘el color de nosotros/ the color of us.’ In that moment, I knew that Kevin saw a glimpse of himself in my eyes, in my language, and in my skin. That is the power of the red jacket.”

By the end of the event the supporters in the room had raised over $1 million for NYC students! However, the night would not have been such a success if it were not for the generous support of our City Year New York supporters and champions.

For more photos of the event, click here.

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