Lighting the path forward
Think back to the moment you committed to serving with City Year. Regardless of whether that was the first time you picked up the flame of idealism or if that flame already had been burning inside of you for years, I know that you felt the power of its heat.
We all know the bad news. The children City Year exists to serve can’t gather in their schools to learn. The educational models that schools and nonprofits across the country have spent decades building have been asked to evolve overnight. Routines have been disrupted and uncertainty reigns. And of course, there is the looming pandemic itself. Countless people—especially the oldest and most vulnerable among us—now face the dual threats of grave physical illness and the psychological toll of isolation and uncertainty. This is a dark time.
In dark times, people look to torchbearers. You’ve been carrying the flame of idealism all along, so their eyes are on you now.
This is an enormous opportunity for you to lead. Make no mistake: this is no longer the year of service you thought it would be. This is not the 2020 that anyone imagined. But here we are. And here you are holding that torch.
Leave it to others to curse the darkness. You already know that’s not your role. You brought hope, positivity, and light into people’s lives before any of this happened, and you’re doing the same thing now. If you were looking for easy work, you wouldn’t have accepted all the responsibilities that came with putting on a City Year jacket in the first place. This is a dark time. But it’s also a special moment.
The good news is that City Year is designed to improvise and conquer new challenges. In its early days, corps members searched high and low to find projects that would bring value to their communities. In more recent years, school teams have created thriving communities on limited budgets in spare rooms, shared rooms, or no rooms at all. Whether in a classroom, hallway, office, cafeteria, or an outdoor space, City Year is always ready.
Children will remember the next few months for the rest of their lives. They will remember who believed in them, even as the basic structures of their daily lives shifted underneath their feet. They will remember who rallied them together to forge a path ahead despite these new obstacles.
We always needed City Year, and City Year always needed you. But it has never needed you to carry the flame of idealism forward quite like it does in this very moment, right now, today. Go and lead.
Stephen Stanwood served as a City Year AmeriCorps Member and Team Leader at City Year Chicago from 2010-2012. Currently, Stephen lives in the Bay Area where he leads local City Year alumni engagement efforts as one of the co-chairs of the City Year Bay Area Alumni Board.
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