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2019-09-23

Hunter Grey's "Why I Serve" Address from City Year Tulsa's Opening Night on September 19, 2019:

Congratulations City Year! Tonight we took a pledge that made us officially AmeriCorps members! 

So, I thought I’d tell you a little bit about my own journey that led to me serving with City Year Tulsa this school year.  

I was first introduced to City Year in 2014 when I was a student at Webster High School. Looking back, I didn’t understand why there were these people in my school always wearing red jackets.

It wasn’t until my math class that I understood why they were there. I never met anyone so willing to help me and to help all the other students and enjoy doing it.  

I wasn’t a student who made straight A’s, in fact, I had D’s all first semester of my freshman year. But, by the end of the year, I had all B’s and one A, and it was because of City Year.

I had never earned an A in my entire school life! I told my City Year mentor at the time, Mr. Porter, and he gave me a big smile and high-five.

His mentoring and tutoring made a real impact on me during that school year, I don’t think he realized how much of a difference he made in my life. On the last day of school he told me how proud he was of me and gave me a note of encouragement. I never got to see him again, but I’ll always remember what type of person he was to me.  

Sophomore year I moved to a new town that, to my disappointment, didn’t have City Year. That first semester my grades spiraled back down to D’s and F’s, and I thought that school was just more difficult in general. Around Thanksgiving, I was back home in Tulsa looking for a paper in my room, and I had long since forgotten City Year and Mr. Porter when I found his note.  

I sat on my bed looking at this envelope with my name written on it, trying to remember who it could possibly be from. I opened it and read:  

“Working with you has been an adventure. In addition to being quirky and witty, you are self-aware and capable of great things.

That said, I encourage you to buckle down and focus! You are such an intelligent student, and it would bring me (and many others) such pleasure to see that intellect reflected in your grades.

Other than that, if you chase your dreams and always trust your imagination, I know you will succeed.”

Afterwards, I thought to myself, if this person that I once knew believes in me, then why can’t I believe in myself?

When my sophomore year ended I had a 1.6 GPA and the thought I would never graduate. But, I kept Mr. Porter’s note with me at school and would take it out and reread it when I needed a pick-me-up or was worried about a test.

Through hard work and perseverance, I graduated high school! I graduated with a 3.4 GPA.  

That’s something I never thought I could accomplish. 

Now how did I get to City Year? Well, after I graduated from high school I had several jobs that I worked but I felt I didn’t really have a purpose. That’s when I found Mr. Porter’s note again and I looked up City Year.

I applied and got in! I’m here with a goal this school year, to make an impact on at least one students life. Just like Mr. Porter did for me.  

Every single AmeriCorps member has a reason for serving this year, Mr. Porter is the reason I serve.  

My name is Hunter Grey and I proudly serve on the Kendall-Whittier Elementary School Team with City Year Tulsa. 

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