Leader for Life
By Tori Fenton, City Year New York and City Year Tulsa Alumna

I proudly served with City Year New York in 2012-2013 and with City Year Tulsa in 2013-2014. I was not only transformed through service with my students, but I was humbled to serve alongside leaders who invested in my professional development according to City Year’s values. Four values in particular have connected to the development of my professional skills through graduate school to my current position at the New York City Department of Education.

Ubuntu: Trust Your Teammates

I decided to apply for graduate school during my senior corps year with City Year (CY) Tulsa so after the regular service day, I was stressed and uncertain about my life after city year (LACY). I learned to trust my teammates and to depend on their support. They helped me prepare my applications and held me accountable to goals I set. They acted as sounding boards for me to think strategically about which programs would set me up for success in the future. When I started school the next fall, I found that the concept of ubuntu extended beyond my team and my site. Fellow alumni from across the network became my support system as colleagues in graduate school because we were all members of the beloved community from our shared experiences across City Year sites.

Social Justice For All: Be an Advocate

I chose to attend NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, where I graduated in May 2016 with my master's degree in Public Administration, specializing in public and nonprofit management and policy. This program enabled me to refine the skills necessary to connect deeply to the promotion of social justice for all from courses in education policy, managing public service organizations, and program evaluation. I learned how to create and manage effective organizations that fight for inclusivity and justice.

Excellence: Execute the Details

My most inspiring leaders are those who held themselves to the highest standard and for whom the details mattered. My CY New York Team Leader and the CY Tulsa Senior Corps Members all excelled because they were able to share the context and purpose of executing the details. The importance of arriving to service in uniform and on time was because we expected the same from our students. The importance of labeling a million folders was so new AmeriCorps members felt welcomed. Excellence was both a vision and an everyday practice.

Students First, Collaboration Always: Build Strong Partnerships

I currently work as a consultant with the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) to expand Pre-K for All, the initiative to provide high-quality pre-K to all four year olds in NYC. We effect maximum change by partnering with other NYCDOE divisions, among city agencies, and with nonprofit providers. Though sometimes the coordination requires many logistic resources, we each have an integral role to play as we work toward achieving a common mission.

City Year confirmed my commitment to a career in public service, and I will be a leader for life because these values translated into professional skills that drive my career.

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