By Colleen Dieringer

And we’re back!

After a restful winter vacation, the City Year Washington, DC corps kicked off the second half of the service year with the annual Mid-Year Summit (MYS). The Summit’s focus was on reflecting on the year’s progress thus far and re-committing ourselves to our mission. After two days of skills and leadership development here in the city, we packed our bags and moved out to the West River retreat center in West River, MD. All City Year Washington, DC corps members, senior corps members and staff traveled to rural Maryland to learn and be together.

Throughout our service year, the Learning and Development team provides regular training and support through Learning and Development Conferences (LDCs), the content of which is focused on developing skills and knowledge that help us to grow as tutors, mentors and role models in order to best serve our students and schools. In the past, sessions have illuminated the importance of lesson planning, providing students with consistency and effective behavior management. Facilitators offer guidance and advice on how to successfully execute these skills within our role as City Year corps members. For Mid-Year Summit, along with the change in scenery, came a shift in the content of the LDC sessions—rather than focusing on external skills and knowledge, the main theme of the retreat was reflection and development of the internal connection with our service.

I think it’s safe to say that, overall, the corps shared skepticism about the idea of a camping trip with their co-workers. Despite assurances from the senior corps members that “it’s actually a great time,” images of bunk beds, cafeteria food and the potential of seeing your boss—and your boss’s boss—in his or her pajamas encouraged a general wariness. As the trip progressed, however, we began to recognize a noticeable shift in attitude on the individual, team and site-wide level. Whether it was expressing personal struggles in small groups, sharing emotional past hardships through the “Cross the Line” activity or watching teams come together to perform in the PT competition, there were numerous opportunities to create genuine connections throughout the entire corps. One could feel the spark of Ubuntu—my humanity is tied to yours—as we became re-inspired through others’ stories of success and struggle. Together, we uncovered the strength we will need to continue our year of service. Here’s hoping that the second half of the year brings us even closer to our goals and each other. I’m sure it will.

dieringer_colleenColleen Dieringer, author, is a corps member serving on Turner Elementary School Team sponsored by CSX Transportation.

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