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Leadership After City Year: A Q&A with Four 2022-23 CYP Corps Members

City Year Philly AmeriCorps members (clockwise from top left) Olivia Baptiste, Jianna Frei, Tomir Johnson, and Amina Khan speak about their experiences serving students and what’s next for them.

 

Another service year has come and gone! On Friday, June 16, City Year Philadelphia’s 2022-23 service year officially concluded, and our graduating AmeriCorps members are now embarking on the next steps in their LACY (Life/Leadership After City Year) journeys—whether that be entering the workforce, pursuing further education, or even returning for an additional year of service.

To celebrate the end of the year, we spoke with four of our newly minted City Year Philly alumni: Olivia Baptiste (Roxborough High School), Jianna Frei (Roxborough High School), Tomir Johnson (Hartranft Elementary School), and Amina Khan (Olney Elementary School). Keep reading to learn more about their LACY plans, how City Year prepared them for their next steps, and advice for incoming AmeriCorps members.

 

What will you be doing post-City Year?

Olivia Baptiste: I’ve committed to a summer program with the Center for Black Educator Development as a Junior Servant Leader Coach. They have a program called Freedom Schools Literacy Academy where they tutor kindergarten through second grade students in literacy. There are two pathways to serve in this program: college grads can apply to be apprentices, or high school students can apply to be junior apprentices. I will be coaching the high school students who are helping tutor the K-2 students.

Tomir Johnson: After City Year, I will be attending West Chester University. I will be working towards my bachelor’s degree in business marketing while also pursuing a music career on the side.

Amina Khan: After City Year, I will be starting medical school at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University here in Philadelphia.

 

Olivia speaks at City Year Philadelphia’s annual Women’s Leadership Luncheon in December 2022.

 

What drew you to returning to serve a second year with City Year?

Jianna Frei: I would say the community—not only at Roxborough, but also the community within City Year. It’s a very welcoming and open environment, and City Year gives you all these benefits and professional development opportunities that you probably wouldn’t be able to access in any other job. City Year is driven to focus on each Corps member individually, just like we do in schools with our work with individual students.

 

Jianna (bottom right) celebrates the winter holidays with her Roxborough High School teammates. 

 

What do you ultimately hope to do in your career?

Olivia Baptiste: Ultimately, I hope to work for a nonprofit—or possibly even create my own nonprofit—geared towards providing mental health and other important resources for community members. Even though the government has resources in place, a lot of the people in the community don’t know about them or don’t know how to receive them. I want to help make those resources more accessible to people who need them.

Jianna Frei: Before serving with City Year, I had completed two years of college and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I was originally interested in criminal justice, and I wanted to work as a juvenile probation officer, and then I took some classes and realized it wasn’t really my thing. However, I enjoyed the psychology aspect and I wanted to work with kids, but I never saw myself as a teacher until I joined City Year. After completing this first year of service, I’m realizing that I might want to stay in the school setting, as a teacher or guidance counselor.

Tomir Johnson: Honestly, I just want to make an impact in whatever I end up doing—whether that’s in the business field, the music industry, or anything else. I want to make an impact for the company or on people’s lives in general.

Amina Khan: With my career goals within medicine, I have always wanted to help break down systemic barriers around social determinants of health, particularly within the public health sphere. Access to health care is unfortunately often a privilege, and it should be a right. I studied a lot of health policy in undergrad, and I’m looking forward to combining my medical background with the things I’ve learned through serving with City Year. I’m not exactly sure what I want to do after medical school, but I think an ideal career would be working at the Department of Public Health or being a local Health Commissioner.

 

Tomir (far right) celebrates Graduation with his Hartranft Elementary teammates and art teacher Mary Bergh (center, olive dress).

 

How has your time serving as a City Year AmeriCorps member prepared you for the next step in your career and/or influenced your thinking around issues of equity and social justice?

Olivia Baptiste: My City Year experience has helped me become a stronger mentor and facilitator and build skills that have prepared me for my LACY plans, such as project management, leadership, public speaking, and being able to converse with people of all walks of life. City Year has also given me the opportunity to network with so many different individuals, and all of them have been willing to connect with me on LinkedIn or speak about roles at their companies. It was only because of City Year that I learned about this opportunity with the Center for Black Educator Development.

Jianna Frei: At the beginning of the service year, all teams were assigned a City Year value to focus on throughout the year, and our value for Roxborough was “empathy.” Serving at Roxborough this year has really taught me what empathy means, working with students on many different levels, whether that’s academically or supporting their mental health. It makes you realize that they all need somebody to be there for them, and a City Year Corps member can be that stable person in their life.

Tomir Johnson: City Year has definitely taught me to be adaptable and open-minded. Throughout your service year, you’ll meet a lot of different people and come across a lot of different opportunities. City Year has prepared me to be able to roll with the punches and kind of expect the unexpected. You might think that you have everything figured out, but sometimes that’s not the case.

Amina Khan: My whole City Year experience was a step outside of what I usually do, particularly since I’m not going into education like many other AmeriCorps members. But City Year is very rooted in issues of equity and social justice, particularly with what I had mentioned around my career goals and social determinants of health—education is a huge factor that determines health care access. City Year also taught me a lot about the experiences of younger members of the community, particularly teens, in this post-COVID era. All the experiences that I’ve had this year have made me interested in working with teenage populations in the future.

 

Amina (second from right) and her Olney Elementary teammates engage students in learning about Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month.

 

What advice would you give to next year’s AmeriCorps members?

Olivia Baptiste: You get out of City Year what you put into it. If you want to develop your skills in leadership, public speaking, or anything else, there will be opportunities—but you must sign yourself up for that. I would also say to take advantage of the Learning and Development Days (LDDs). Even though the LDDs may seem long, they are helpful in shifting your mindset from thinking of yourself just as a Corps member to thinking about how you show up in a professional environment.

Jianna Frei: Always have an open heart and open mind. And just be open to change, because life is going to have different pathways and you’ll decide which ones you want to take. If you want to make it somewhere, you can do it. And I say to bring that type of energy to the kids and put your “all” into your year of service, because these kids really do depend on you.

Tomir Johnson: I served with City Year as a gap year after high school, and it’s been an amazing experience. The main advice is to take care of yourself. As much as you’re here for the students, your own self-care is also important. It’s easy to get lost in the work, but without taking care of your own mental health, you can’t show up for your students and your team. Also, go to bed early!

Amina Khan: Lean into the experience and expect a lot of personal growth. Be intentional about your goals and what you want to get out of City Year. And go with the flow, because I think that growth ultimately ends up happening by nature of opening yourself up to new experiences and being around the students. I also want to emphasize that the skills you’ll develop through City Year can carry into any career. Even though medicine and education might not seem like they go together, there are a lot of qualities that overlap—emotional management, time management, how to navigate stressful situations and practice self-care, and how to work well on a team.

 

Are you considering a year of service, or do you know someone who is? City Year Philly is currently hiring full-time tutors and mentors for the 2023-2024 school year. Apply by July 17 to start serving this August.

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