A commitment to service runs deep in the hearts of our City Year alumni. Years after they’ve completed their service with City Year, they look for ways to give back to their communities. First held over Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2007, City Year’s annual Alumni Service Weekend brings together City Year alumni to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King, participate in service activities and foster an authentic connection to a local City Year community.
After 12 years serving New Orleans and Baton Rouge in Louisiana, the City Year Alumni Service Weekend team transitioned the service weekend to a new location: Dallas, Texas, or as many locals call it, “The Big D.” A more recent addition to the network, City Year Dallas was founded in 2015 and currently is home to 61 City Year AmeriCorps members serving in seven high-need schools. This year, five City Year alumni representing six sites traveled from across the country to participate: Anna Saradeth (Seattle ’08, ‘09), Stefanie Vestal (Rhode Island ’06, Washington DC ‘07), Andrea Encarnacao Martin (San Jose/Silicon Valley ’02), Allison Rogers (Boston ’97), and Sarah Zanolli (New York ’07).
Touring the City Year Dallas office. Aaron Gougis, City Year Dallas, (far left), City Year alumni Allison Rogers, Anna Saradeth, Sarah Zanolli, Andrea Martin, and Stef Vestal, alongside City Year Headquarters staff members, Jennifer Ingham and Alex Allen.
During their trip, alumni met with currently serving City Year AmeriCorps members and explored a City Year partner school. AmeriCorps members shared reflections of their year of service to date, and alumni answered questions and gave thoughtful advice about life after City Year.
“I joined City Year to help benefit the communities I saw being pushed to the side. I saw my friends dropping out of school and becoming disconnected from education. I wanted to be a part of changing that. When I learned about City Year, I knew I had found my calling,” Sammy Ramirez, first-year City Year Dallas AmeriCorps member, said.
To that, alumnae Allison Rogers shared, "City Year fosters community building in so many ways. With your team, you’re able to bond over your service year and when you transition outside of that experience, you come out with so many skills and are a stronger person, overall.”
The four-day weekend offered up a variety of opportunities to connect with City Year Dallas alumni and staff at key social events and culminated in two service activities: one with the Red Cross on Saturday, helping to package cots for disaster relief kits and the other, a beautification project the following Monday at Mills Elementary School held by City Year Dallas in celebration of MLK Day. City Year alumni joined nearly 100 volunteers to paint walls to further brighten up learning spaces and increase the positive school climate. After they were finished, the team erupted into an impromptu dance session in celebration of the completed project. And later that afternoon, alumni attended a City Year-led panel discussion around social justice issues that affect the Dallas community.
Anna and Stef stacking boxed cots at the Red Cross Dallas warehouse.
Sarah, Andrea and Anna painting colorful murals for MLK Day at Roger Q. Mills elementary.
“City Year coming back to serve in this unique way is a great reminder of the foundational reason the organization was created, to provide service to a cause greater than oneself,” said Andrea Martin, City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley ’02 alumna and national Board of Trustees member. “Through Alumni Service Weekend, we’re able to create positive energy, give back in a meaningful way, and bring that momentum to the strengthen communities we live in every day.”
City Year’s alumni tagline is “leaders for life,” which means the commitment to helping students succeed doesn’t end on your last day of service. The annual Alumni Service Weekend is a true testament to that promise.
The Alumni Service Weekend group shortly before departing Roger Q. Mills elementary after MLK Day of Service.