Edited by Leah Singerman, AmeriCorps member serving on the Deloitte team with Irving Middle School
Co-edited by Leah Shafer, AmeriCorps member serving on the State Street Foundation team with Higginson/Lewis K-8 School
I have never seen myself as much of a leader. On my first day of City Year, I realized that not being a leader was not an option. I panicked.
I get scared talking in front of people; my face turns bright red and I stumble over my words. Asking people to do things and giving directions makes me uncomfortable, and when I get nervous I giggle so nobody can take me seriously. But despite the fact that I face these challenges, my service with City Year has shown me there are so many more important definitions of what it means to be a leader.
My service team at the Washington Irving Middle School is composed of 12 different, yet equally strong, leaders. We have our Team Leader and Program Manager, Joanne Jan and Elizabeth Stein, a dynamic duo, always leading by example. They have earned our trust, and they lead by also trusting us and challenging us to go above and beyond to make a difference in our service.
But they aren’t the only leaders on our team: Ashlee is never afraid to speak her mind and as a result leads our team by advocating for our students and our needs. Miranda leads with her genuine passion for our work and her empathy for others; she inspires us to put heart in our work. Devante is a leader because although he is quiet, his words are still powerful and thoughtful, just like his interactions with his students. He shows us on how to build strong relationships with them. Rob’s work ethic and modesty allow him to lead by example when it comes to supporting the students and the school in every way.
Kit brings the energy; she uses her positive attitude and bright smile to help our team stay motivated and always provide service with a smile. Eliza leads us by using logic; she leads us to solve problems practically and efficiently. Nick is another soft-spoken leader who can always be seen doing the right thing. He leads us be humble while always doing right thing. Leah leads us by constantly challenging us to think differently; she always offers new thoughts and perspectives that allow us to be more well-rounded in our work. And Sammie’s ability to be direct while showing compassion helps us address barriers in our service year head-on, which ultimately unites us all the more.
If you asked me in August if I was a leader, I would have said no. However, through serving alongside this powerhouse team, I have realized that anybody willing to commit to a year of service is a leader. Yes, talking to a group of people still makes me uncomfortable, and my face will always turn bright red. Also, giving directions to people still remains awkward, and giggling is simply unavoidable. But being able to do these things does not necessarily make you a leader. I am the 12th leader on my team. I lead by upholding high standards to our work and giving my team things to laugh about, even if it is myself. I have discovered as a leader I strive to create a community for my team where we all feel like equal contributors working towards the change we all believe in.