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Leading Through Tough Times Part II



In Part I of our series “Leading Through Tough Times: An Interview with City Year Philly’s Executive Director, Darryl Bundrige,” the Executive Director offered a glimpse into the unique experience of leading through a pandemic. Here in Part II, Bundrige shares leaders he’s turned to for inspiration during these challenging times while also reflecting on the students across Philadelphia — especially those connected to City Year.  

 Are there other nonprofits or peers that you’ve looked to throughout this time? 

I have a phenomenal group of colleagues in City Year. I spend a lot of time thought-sharing with City Year Boston and City Year Chicago given that our cities and corps sizes are similar. Externally, I look at Big Brothers Big Sisters, I’ve had a number of conversations with a colleague who leads Teach for America, and I’ve connected with peers from other AmeriCorps programs in our national task force. Within each of these groups, we’ve done best practice sharing, exchanging of resources, and offered each other general professional support. 

City Year is an organization that provides services to others. Has this posed any unique challenges during COVID-19? 

In these times, there is an adjustment to everything being virtual. Our service members need to be able to connect with students not just in a way that makes students comfortable but to ensure psychological safety for them to open up and truly share their thoughts, feelings, and any and all barriers they wrestle with as they live through this. It’s critical for us to be there as strong listeners, to offer words of reassurance, and to help them see how they can own their space and a level of success. It’s all the more reason for them to refocus on the idea that no matter what, you can still control how you show up and the effort you put into your lessons, engaging with your peers, family, etc.

What about the younger students CYP serves? 

What we all know as normal has changed and that can be frightening. For our younger students, they can’t go to the park and run and play like they used to, and maybe they’re now walking around with a mask on — if they’re out of the house at all. Potentially, they may be seeing and hearing reactions of family members who may be sick or may have lost their jobs, wondering what it all means, should they be scared, and how can they help because they want to help too. Even for the little ones, they know something is different. 

Reflecting on students evokes visible emotions from you as you speak. 

We don’t know what’s going on in the little minds and hearts of the kids that we haven’t gotten to see in two months. These are students whom we’ve been a part of their lives for at least the past seven or eight months and I can only wonder what they’re going through. I can only hope that they’re safe and healthy and as happy as they can be in these circumstances. We know we have to worry. We know some are dependent on food outside their homes or may have sick family members. Those stressors show up in different ways so I’m hopeful that we’re able to see all our kids and that they’re in the same condition in which we last saw them — in body and mind and in spirit. 

Check out City Year Philly’s blog next week for Part III of the interview series with Executive Director, Darryl Bundrige. 

To see City Year Philadelphia’s latest updates and response to COVID-19, visit us online. Seeking to support our work during this time? Here are Four Easy Ways to Support City Year Philadelphia today. 

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