By Izzi Hernandez-Cruz, City Year Columbia ’15
Early in my collegiate career I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in education policy. Before I entered a master’s program, I wanted to learn more about our school systems. After all, my bachelor’s degree was in political science, and I had only taken one class about education during my time at Clemson University. After I graduated, I participated in a different service program that placed me in a Washington, D.C area school. There, I wore many hats: lunch and recess supervisor, events coordinator’s assistant, substitute teacher and assistant basketball coach. This position introduced me to how a school operated, but I still did not get the close interactions with students that I craved. I had very little exposure to what happens inside the classroom.
City Year not only gave me this exposure. It helped get me to where I am now. I am currently a graduate student pursuing my Master’s of Public Policy at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. The Sanford School of Public Policy is a university partner of City Year, so I immediately knew that they acknowledged my service as a valuable and meaningful experience.
Between the scholarship my school offers City Year alumni and The Segal Education Award I earned for completing my City Year AmeriCorps year, going back to school was now something I could afford. These partnerships and educational awards are two tools that demonstrate how much City Year values the leadership development of both their corps and alumni.
For those of you considering graduate school at the completion of your service year, here are some things to keep in mind:
Look into University Partnerships. Over one hundred schools recognize that the work City Year AmeriCorps members do and they skills they bring to the table are valuable assets to their school community. These schools are willing to help City Year alumni embers continue their growth in their programs. Take advantage of it, and demonstrate how the skills you learned during your service year (teamwork, discipline, persistence, to name a few) can be applied to your school work.
Connect with other Alumni. City Year alumni are all over the map! I actually have already met two other people here at Duke who served with City Year. The shared experiences and shared understanding lead to immediate mutual respect and potential team members for projects.
Enjoy your service. Service is not always easy (this is not news to you), but City Year is a unique program. My City Year classroom may be the most idealistic and joy-filled place I ever find in the professional world. I already miss it, only nine months later. Treasure your time with your team.
Thank you for giving a year to City Year. You could have done many other things, but you chose to serve. Soon you will get to see how this year prepared you for what comes next, whatever that may be. Keep up the hard work, and I wish you the best of luck in the rest of your service year!
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