What’s next after City Year Philly? A LACY interview with three 2021-22 AmeriCorps members
City Year Philly AmeriCorps members Andrew Gupta, Dimir Leftwich, and Saige Cornick-Turpin speak about their LACY (Leadership After City Year) career plans.
The 2021-22 service year officially ended earlier this month, and another class of City Year Philadelphia (CYP) AmeriCorps members have joined our alumni community and will embark upon the next steps in their career journeys.
A year of service with City Year Philly can lead to a career in a wide range of fields, including education, nonprofit, law, medicine, data science, and business. Many Corps members also go on to advance their education or even return for a second City Year of service!
To celebrate the end of the service year, we’re spotlighting three AmeriCorps members with distinct career plans and interests, including one who is returning to CYP: Andrew Gupta (Olney Elementary), Dimir Leftwich (Southwark School), and Saige Cornick-Turpin (Kensington High School). Keep reading to learn more about their experiences serving with City Year, career aspirations, and words of wisdom for next year’s Corps!
What will you be doing post-City Year?
Dimir: I’m going to be staying at Southwark School as a physical education and health teacher, more so leaning on the health side. I’ll be assisting with some gym classes but will be more focused on teaching about bodies, mental health, hygiene, and everything else that encompasses health class in an elementary and middle school setting.
Saige: After City Year, I will be attending the University of Pennsylvania to get my master’s in Social Policy. I graduated from undergrad with a degree in Criminology and Pre-Law, and I’ve always been very interested in public service and advocacy. I’m excited about my Social Policy program as a chance to dive deep into the policies and laws that impact our everyday lives—which often serve some people while disadvantaging others—and how these policies can be changed to be equitable for everyone.
Dimir (top right) with his Southwark School team on Graduation Day.
What drew you to returning to serve a second year with City Year?
Andrew: I really, really enjoyed my first year of service, and I wanted to have the opportunity to serve a second year and continue that work. I absolutely loved building relationships with students and not only working with them on academics, but also being able to support them with their social-emotional growth. It was so fulfilling and rewarding to watch my students grow and develop, and I’m excited to be able to keep building on that work next year.
Andrew (second from right on chair) enjoys a fun afternoon with his Olney team at the mid-year Corps celebration at Blue Cross RiverRink.
What do you ultimately hope to do in your career?
Andrew: My long-term goal is to go into education. Specifically, I’m leaning towards becoming a high school science teacher. Being at City Year has given me the opportunity to get firsthand experience in education and develop skills that will be important as I pursue a career as a teacher. My partner teacher this year is extremely experienced and amazing at what she does, and I’ve learned so much just by being in the classroom with her.
Dimir: I want to stay within education, but my goal is to become a high school football coach. I’ve been able to talk with different coaches in the Philadelphia school system and find opportunities. Right now, I’m planning to teach at Southwark during the day and coach football at West Catholic High School in the afternoon. I really enjoy working with students and seeing how they grow throughout the school year. As a full-time teacher at Southwark, I’ll be able to work with a lot of the same students from kindergarten all the way through 8th grade, which is a huge amount of growth.
Saige: My career goal is to do something within human rights, whether that be advocacy, law, or international relations. My ultimate goal is to work for the United Nations one day. Overall, I want to be an advocate for those who have been impacted by systemic barriers and inequities.
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?
Andrew: I’m planning on going into education, and City Year has given me the opportunity to develop the skills that I’ll need, such as how to set expectations and boundaries with students, and how to support students when they get discouraged. In terms of equity, I’m honestly still in the middle of a long learning process. Serving with City Year and working in schools has helped me start to lay a foundation of what equity and anti-racism actually looks like in the schoolhouse, and how my role as a teacher or mentor can be truly equitable and anti-racist.
Dimir: Serving with City Year has encouraged me to go into the education field more than I was expecting. Coming out of college, I knew that I wanted to coach football, but through City Year I became interested in teaching. My new position at Southwark is a great opportunity to continue working with students. I think City Year’s focus on DBIE [Diversity, Belonging, Inclusion, and Equity] and social-emotional learning gives me a different outlook on education; I’m not just focused on grades, but I’m also focused on students’ social and mental growth.
Saige: City Year has opened my eyes to the inequities in the education system, the criminal justice system, and the housing system. Before coming to City Year, I thought of myself as fairly well-versed in these issues, but I’ve since witnessed firsthand the barriers that my students deal with on a daily basis. I was fortunate enough to go to a private high school and college, and it’s also been eye-opening to see how the education system does not work for everyone. City Year has helped me dive deep into these issues, and it’s led me to pursuing a master’s in Social Policy.
Saige (third in bottom row) and her Kensington High School team played a friendly game of basketball with 10th grade students!
What advice would you give to next year’s AmeriCorps members?
Andrew: There’s a lot that I could talk about, but the biggest piece of advice is to make sure you’re developing strong relationships with your students, your partner teacher, and your team. Your teammates are there to support you throughout your year of service. Be sure to also build relationships with your Team Leader and Impact Manager. I get sort of nervous around any kind of authority figure, and it took me a few months to start feeling comfortable around them—but the quicker you can do that, the more it’s going to work to your advantage.
Dimir: My biggest piece of advice is just to cherish every moment. The school year is only 180 days, and it goes by very fast. Once that year is over, you’re probably not going to see a lot of these kids again. Some Corps members will go on to work in education, and I’m lucky to stay in the school where I served, but most of us won’t have the opportunity to work with the same kids again. So, cherish every moment with your students.
Saige: The advice I would give is not to be afraid to have honest and raw conversations—not only with your teammates, but also with your students. Even though your students are young, you still learn from them on an everyday basis. You also learn a great deal from your teammates. On my team, we come from all over the country and have different majors and backgrounds, and we’re all continually learning from each other. Also, just enjoy each day; the service year goes by really quickly, and the memories and relationships you’ve made will impact you later in life.
Are you considering a year of service, or do you know someone who is? City Year Philly is currently accepting applications for the 2022-23 service year! Click below to start your journey.
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