This past weekend the New York State Commission for National and Community Service, hosted over 40 AmeriCorps programs in Saratoga Springs, NY. The AmeriCorps Kickoff event is a two-day gathering of service, commemoration, and celebration for the start of a new year of service for AmeriCorps programs. A lucky group of awesome Staff, Senior Corps and Corps Members had the opportunity to represent CYNY on this two-day event!
The first day AmeriCorps Members partook in a service event with Stars For Our Troops to honor Veteran’s Day. Stars For Our Troops was founded by Susan Wells to remind veterans that, “You are not forgotten.” The stars come from retired American flags that are too worn to fly. Over the course of the night, we were able to collectively make over 20,000 stars to be passed out to the veterans across New York to thank them for their service. For more information about this organization, be sure to check out.
The second day we had the opportunity to go through an interactive training with Senior Vice President and Dean of City Year, Charlie Rose! Charlie opened up by asking us two important questions: What are you willing to fight for? What are you willing to die for?
This trip aimed for Americorps members to connect with one another and reflect on the upcoming year of service. Charlie said that “work is love made physical”; an important reminder that we are putting in this effort and doing this service because we all love the impact that we are making. Charlie also touched on the importance of leadership, sharing important words leaders use:
- 6 important words: “I admit I made a mistake”
- 5 important words: “I am proud of you”
- 4 important words: “What is your opinion?”
- 3 important words: “If you please”
- 2 important words: “Thank you”
- 1 important word: “We”
As a leader we should learn that it is ok to make mistakes, but you also have to take responsibility for them. Remember to tell your team that you are proud of them and appreciate what they do. Keep in mind other people’s opinions when making decisions and not just think of your own. Be polite and courteous with others and only have someone do a task if they are comfortable with it. Be grateful and always show your gratitude to others. Most importantly, remember “we” because you accomplish many things as a team, much more than when the leader is focused on themselves.
Another fun lesson in leadership from this day was taught by studying geese. Geese fly together in a V formation but during that time they listen to each other to be efficient. They rotate the leader of the V formation when the front gets tired so that they can keep moving. “People who share a common direction and community can get to their goal faster,” said Rose. Just like the geese flying together to the south, we all have a common direction that we are working towards and we can get there if we all work together.
Two things I plan to remember as to remember as we enter this year of service is that Encouragement will lead to a greater production. We must always stand by each other this year – especially during the tough times during our year of service. And, It is ok if you countdown the days of service left but only if you make them all count. A tremendous amount of impact can be done in one day.
Later on in the day, Linda Cohen, the Executive Director of the New York State Commission on National & Community Service opened up the Kickoff Ceremony! She highlighted that there are a total of about 72,000 AmeriCorps members around the county and over the years, we have done more than 100 million hours in New York State. Cohen explained that this is a time to reflect on what we have done as AmeriCorps members and to look forward what we will accomplish.
Chief of Staff of the Commission on National & Community Service, Asim Mishra, followed with the keynote address on diversity. He spoke about the diversity in his life and the time when he served the community. Here are 3 important lessons he gave about service towards our community:
- 1) Always begin your work with the assets of the community. Find out what works best and then start from there rather than starting from scratch.
- 2) When you implement your ideas, always get the community buy in first. It is important to always connect with the community you are serving and find out what they way.
- 3) Lastly, it is good to be altruistic, but you must also be selfish. Recognize your self-interest and why you are doing what you are doing. Your passion is not a handout.
The AmeriCorps Kickoff was a great event for City Year New York. We were rejuvenated and learned some valuable lessons; I am grateful for the opportunity to have gone. As a CYNY team, I feel that we were all able to learn so much from the speakers and grow our bond together!