By Alexander Czuprynski, serving on the Schneider Electric Team at Del Sesto Middle School
With a semester of service under our belts, corps members have begun working on their Leadership After City Year (L.A.C.Y.) plans. While some of us have ideas as to what those next steps might be, others are more uncertain. However, it is the success of our alumni which brings us hope as we stand on their shoulders this year. At Del Sesto, we are lucky enough that our school’s team leader from last year, Molly Cohen, has the opportunity to visit as part of her new job. This year, Molly is working for Generation Citizen in Rhode Island, a nonprofit that teaches action civics to middle- and high-school students. Generation Citizen students pick an issue in their community that they want to change, analyze it to identify root causes, and then develop and implement an action plan to convince the government to address the issue. Their work serves as a bridge between youth and local government, bringing the two together and creating an opportunity for students’ voices to be heard.
Molly’s two years of service with City Year helped her to develop skills, such as time management and organization, which have been crucial to her success in her new job. At Generation Citizen, Molly is responsible for training and coaching the college volunteers who teach the lessons to students. This also means that she spends a lot of her time visiting different schools and observing classes. Doing so has given Molly the opportunity to stay connected to Del Sesto and occasionally see her former City Year students. Her exposure to the Providence Public School District during her has proven to be invaluable because Generation Citizen students bring up the same issues that Molly would hear students talk about when she was a corps member and a team leader. From supporting student success in school to helping them make a difference in their community, Molly continues to empower young people to make better happen in their lives and others.
Alexander Czuprynski (AC): What do you miss most about City Year?
Molly Cohen (MC): Definitely my team! It's tough to go from circling in the school gym every morning and spending ten hours a day crammed together in a teeny office space to keeping in touch through the occasional text or Facebook message. I'm really lucky to have a job that gives me opportunities to stay connected to Del Sesto and occasionally see my students, but my team scattered across the country after graduation.
AC: What about City Year had the biggest impact on you?
MC: The culture of idealism. I'm not a natural optimist, and I was very skeptical of how relentlessly positive City Year seemed when I first joined. Gradually, though, I realized how essential it is to always be able to find something to be grateful for. If you can see the opportunity that a challenge presents (even if it's just the opportunity to learn from your mistakes), you can persevere in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
AC: Where do you work now?
MC: I work for Generation Citizen in Rhode Island, which is a nonprofit that teaches action civics to middle- and high-school students. Students pick an issue in their community that they want to change, analyze it to identify a root cause, and then create and implement an action plan to convince the government to address the issue. Our classes are learning about democracy by participating in local government and making their voices heard. It's pretty much the coolest job I could imagine.
AC: What do you do there?
MC: My job is to help ensure that the program is running effectively. I get to train and coach the college volunteers who go into classrooms to teach lessons, which means I spend a lot of time traveling around to different schools and observing classes. I also talk to teachers and administrators to make sure that what we're doing aligns with the school's expectations for the program.
AC: How did City Year help you to prepare for this job?
MC: City Year taught me a lot of essential skills, like time management and organization. More importantly, I had the opportunity to learn about the Providence school system by being a part of a school community for two years. I'm familiar with the issues that the students bring up in Generation Citizen classes because when I was a corps member, my students talked to me about the same issues. But now I get to work with a program that helps them take steps to address those problems-- everything from gun violence to snow removal. Did I mention yet how cool my job is? Here's another great thing about Providence-- I've seen students that I know from City Year at every school I visit. I walked into a high school the other day and a group of tenth graders started calling my name because they recognized me from two years ago.
AC: What advice would you give to this year's corps?
MC: Communication is key!!! Everything works better when people are open, honest, and considerate of each other's' needs. Give positive feedback at every opportunity.