by Hana Uyeda, City Year New Hampshire AmeriCorps member serving on the Northwest Elementary School Team generously sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal
In December, I had the privilege of attending City Year’s annual Northeast Leadership Academy (NELA) in Boston. I applied to the program because I thought it would be a terrific opportunity to meet AmeriCorps members serving at other City Year sites. I was eager to learn about their experiences and the unique culture of each site. I also thought the conference could be a great place for me to hone and discover my own leadership skills. Since the start of my year of service, I have found City Year to be an extremely welcoming and friendly environment, and even though I don’t consider myself a very outgoing or extroverted person, I thought I would feel comfortable speaking up and reaching out to new people at this City Year conference.
Each day of the conference was packed with activities, good food, and fun. On the first day, we met City Year’s CEO and co-founder Michael Brown and did a workshop on different leadership styles. We also participated in a culture, identity, and leadership conversation with Rebecca Jackson, Director of Community Learning and Racial Equity for the Trinity Boston Foundation. We even had time to team build with a fun scavenger hunt and a session of City Year’s leadership development program, the Idealist’s Journey. Though my team didn’t win the scavenger hunt, we were able to get to know each other on the (somewhat competitive) walk through Boston. This activity and Michael Brown’s speech were my favorite parts of the first day. Hearing Michael Brown talk about the roots of the organization, and the idealism that inspired him and his young counterparts to create the once-small movement that became City Year was very inspirational to me. In his speech he also outlined City Year’s vision of its future, which energized me, and gave even more purpose to my everyday service.
On the second and third days of service, the NELA group met with City Year Vice Presidents Charlie Rose and Stephen Spaloss for an “Authentic Leadership” talk and attended either an effective questioning workshop, or an understanding conflict workshop (based on our choice). In addition, we met the head of City Year’s AmeriCorps Member Experience team Alex Allen, had another fascinating Idealist’s Journey session, and finally said our goodbyes. As always, it was invigorating to hear Charlie Rose and Stephen Spaloss speak about leadership, and both of their journeys, unconventional and at times difficult, to becoming the leaders they are today. The session that most resonated with me from these two days was the Effective Questioning workshop. It was led by Jess McCue, Director of Learning and Development at City Year Boston, who gave us an introduction to what I think of as the “questioning mindset”: asking more questions can change how you lead, how you think, and even how others perceive you.
A great part of the event was being able to convene with rest of the City Year New Hampshire team in attendance at the end of the three days to discuss takeaways, and how we would work to implement them at our site. One problem we discussed was a lack of communication to partner teachers by City Year about the intended role of an AmeriCorps member in the classroom. A solution posed in our brainstorm was to connect new partner teachers to veteran partner teachers, so the new teachers can better understand how to best utilize AmeriCorps members. Another takeaway was the “Strategic Questioning” workshop, which the team thought should be rippled out to the City Year New Hampshire site sometime during this service year.
All in all, the conference exceeded my expectations. I was able to connect with people from other City Year sites, get to know my New Hampshire teammates better, take home tips that I can use to hone my leadership skills, and discuss improvements for my own site. It was a great experience, and I highly encourage future AmeriCorps members serving in the Northeast to apply for NELA during their service year!
If you or someone you know is interested in joining City Year, click here for information about the application process. The next application deadline is March 9th.