2015-04-10

By Aaron Coleman
First-year AmeriCorps member, Horning Family Foundation team at Garfield Elementary School

Adish Parikh’s mind lingered in post-interview limbo—that purgatory that lies between hearing, “We’ll be in contact soon” and actually receiving the final verdict. Fortunately, as a City Year AmeriCorps member at Garfield Elementary School, he had a lot to keep him busy. He greeted kids before their breakfast, mentored during lunch, and tutored math students after school. Some days, he even worked overtime meeting with corps members and staff at the CYDC office. But each night, after hours of avoiding his email, Adish would check his inbox. And each night, it was empty — until the first weekend in October.

“I was cleaning up my apartment when I got the notification,” recounted Adish, “when I opened the email, it read ‘Congratulations on being chosen as the CYDC 2015 Executive Director of Student Service Wee...’”. Shocked, he sat down and read on. He would be leading Student Service Week, known as SSW, an annual alternative spring break program hosted by City Year for local teenagers to engage in community service. The week is completely planned by City Year AmeriCorps members and staff, and the Executive Director of SSW is one of the most coveted and important leadership positions among the corps.

For Adish, someone who is perennially calm, avoids unnecessary conversation, and prefers to work in autonomy, the Executive Director role was the perfect growth experience.

“I never had the top position in anything,” Adish said, reflecting on why he applied. “I had always been number two or number three, and honestly, I think I performed well in those roles, but I saw the Executive Director position as a challenge — something that could help my development, something that could help push me out of my comfort zone.”

Adish wasted no time. Starting that fall, He collaborated with the SSW team and CYDC staff to brainstorm, raise money, and design engaging programs in preparation for the entire week at Charles Hart Middle School, located in Southeast DC. Adish worked with the programs coordinator and other members on the staff to create a curriculum that reframed the neighborhood as a perfect backdrop for lessons on community service. Students from outside the southeast neighborhoods were pitched on to the opportunity to learn how service can improve their lives and the city.

Meanwhile, students from the area were attracted by workshops like Solidarity Economics and other community-centric courses that teach students how to improve their neighborhood. Getting over the recruitment challenge has not been easy, but now, mere days away from the start of SSW, the initiative is set to have over 100 students coming from all sides of the city. And Adish and the entire SSW team are aiming to make this year’s SSW the most meaningful ever.

“I know that we can only accomplish so much in a week,” said Adish, “but if we can inspire the students, then we can be the catalyst for them to find their service passion — we can help them find their niche in community service.”

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