By Jesse Carmen, Team Leader on the Tulsa Area United Way team serving at Clinton Middle School and City Year Boston '14 alumna


Last year I served my corps year at the English High School in Jamaica Plain, MA. I served on a team with nine other amazing corps members, two team leaders, and one program manager. I worked with both ninth and tenth grade students and learned more from these fourteen and fifteen year olds than I ever thought was possible. And as the ten months {flew} by I began to learn more about others and myself than I did during my four years of college. Because my corps year was such a transformative year for myself, I wanted to be part of this for new corps members, which is why I decided to apply for Senior Corps.

During April of last year, I was presented the opportunity to become a team leader at City Year Tulsa. At first, I was incredibly skeptical. Tulsa is 1,600 miles away from Boston, where my family, friends, and newfound City Year Boston family lives. I had just moved back to Boston after attending college in Michigan for four years, and I was not looking to move away again. However, despite all of my anxieties about moving, I found myself accepting this offer {and privilege} to serve a second year with City Year Tulsa.

As Neale Donald Walsch said, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Leaving City Year Boston and moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma was most definitely out of my comfort zone. I love {almost} everything about Boston and so leaving the school I served ten challenging months in and my corps year team-- who became like a second family to me, was extremely difficult. That said, I still got on that plane after Summer Academy, ready to embark on my new and different ten-month journey in Tulsa.

Since moving to Tulsa and beginning my Senior Corps experience, I have learned more than I could ever imagine in just three short months. The greatest thing being that City Year is a family. It is amazing how although I am 1,600 miles away from home and my family, I still somehow feel at home. There is something incredibly comforting about a group of red jackets, first and final circles, ripples, joys, appreciations, PITWs, unity rallies, etc. When I was at Summer Academy I would find myself thinking “wow, I am part of something that is so much bigger than myself” as I looked out to the other 1,200 people in their red or yellow jacket. I also find myself doing this constantly as I reflect on my move and transition from City Year Boston to City Year Tulsa.

This is not to say that the transition hasn’t been challenging because it has. But, with these challenges comes growth and new experiences. I had to learn very quickly how to navigate myself into a comparably small Senior Corps team who already worked together {and knew each other} for ten months. I had to learn to be an adaptable leader but also a team leader who was able to maintain my own leadership style—something that I am sure will always be apart of the learning process. Coming from the most established City Year site to the newest site has proven to me that with less people on staff comes more responsibilities and some growing pains along the way; however, with the right support system, teamwork, and village anything can be done with excellence. Starting last year with start-up and now this year with founding year, the village and corps members have come from all over to “serve where most needed,” and on the most difficult days this community of passion, commitment, and drive to #makebetterhappen is what keeps me going.

Recently we had the inaugural opening day for City Year Tulsa, and Dr. Keith Ballard, the superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools said, “There are going to be difficult days, difficult weeks, and there are going to be times that are spectacular beyond belief.” Being apart of Tulsa’s first opening day was not only a privilege but also “spectacular beyond belief,” and I am excited to see what else Tulsa has in store for me this year.

The 2014-2015 Tulsa Area United Way team serving at Clinton Middle School.

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