By Max Mays, AmeriCorps Member, Heinemann and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Supported Team,
Serving at Henry-Wilson Elementary School
Traditional workplaces rarely afford their employees the opportunity to discuss contentious topics in a formal setting. It does not take long to realize, however, that City Year is not a traditional workplace. Several times a month, City Year Corps Members put aside workplace conventions and take part in an open discussion called Idealist’s Journey. Each IJ group features around seven or eight Corps Members and is facilitated by two senior corps members. The time spent in IJ, which is roughly an hour, is separated into two sections.
The first section is a period of general reflection where Corps Members discuss their experiences at City Year. These discussion topics, which are guided by a workbook designed by City Year headquarters, can range from perfecting your personal leadership mission to the lessons learned during service to others. Often, this period allows me to put my service in perspective. Each day of City Year features such a relentless pace that it is refreshing to sit down and take the time to analyze the journey that brought me here.
The second section of Idealist’s Journey features an open forum discussion of an even wider range of topics. Each week, a Corps Member is tasked with prompting the group with a discussion that is meant to both intellectually challenge and inform. In my IJ group we have discussed the burgeoning prison population, psychology of color, significance of dreams and much more. The topics occasionally put Corps Members at odds with each other, but these differences are not confrontational in nature, but rather, represent the diversity of viewpoints that one can find throughout this world.
Learning to work in a close environment with a diverse group of people is an important aspect of City Year’s leadership model, and Idealist’s Journey fosters this development. The City Year experience is meant to impact both the community and the Corps Member. Idealist’s Journey plays an important role creating leaders who are capable of this transformation.