By Amanda Smidt
Dear fellow City Year alumni,
I’m honored to be one of the first to welcome you to an elite group of idealists who knows what it means to wear the red jacket and proudly say “I served with City Year.” Undoubtedly, each of us feels a different set of emotions when reflecting on our service year. You may feel inspired, uplifted, and accomplished. You could feel exhausted, confused, and conflicted. You may be walking away from your classroom knowing you are leaving it better than you found it, but you may also be a bit on edge, worrying about that one student who just couldn’t slay his dragons. No matter your experience or emotion I hope, and even expect, that each of you is overcome with pride.
I served two years with City Year Rhode Island from 2008 until 2010. I began as many do, ready to get started, knowing exactly what needed to be done to change the world. When the City Year culture was introduced, I challenged and even scoffed at what was happening. Why are you singing at me when I walk into the building? Don’t we have trainings to get through? Students to mentor? I was so focused on what needed to be done, I never stopped to consider the process. After some time, a lot of reflection, and even more coaching, I started to understand. For the last 25 years, young idealists before me laid the groundwork for our service. I had to trust those before me, the alumni, that what they’d built was a spectacular set of tools to not only assist in growing our impact, but also in growing myself.
Once I learned to trust, I fell for the culture, and hard. I realized the PITWs (Putting Idealism To Work) weren’t silly little quotes, but brilliant nuggets of information to keep us on track. When our after-school students continuously reminded us that last year’s City Year was better and ignored every activity we presented, I didn’t quit. I remembered… “This is Hard, Be Strong.” I met every challenge with the opportunity to learn from it. I didn’t find all the answers, but in trusting those before me, I was able to walk away knowing I’d changed the world. I hadn’t single-handedly on my own, changed the entire world, but I had been part of something much bigger than myself, that was, in fact, changing the world. I was proud.
The pride you will carry as a City Year alum will take on many forms. In the coming months, you will find yourself responding to a situation and think “That was SO City Year.” You’ll look around at your new co-workers or classmates and realize their personalities don’t quite stack up to those of your teammates. You’ll be driving down the street and pass a new corps member wearing a red jacket and Tims, and you’ll have overwhelming nostalgia for that feeling that you are part of something much bigger than yourself.
That feeling doesn’t have to stop here. In fact, the pride you have for being a City Year corps member today never goes away. There are incredible opportunities ahead of you to reflect on your experience, use what you’ve learned, and support the corps that follows you. Your pride will grow and strengthen with every passing year.
Thank you for giving your year. Thank you for paving the way for future corps members. Thank you for changing your students’ world.
Welcome to the alumni family.
City Year Rhode Island ’09, ‘10
City Year Rhode Island Alumni Board Chair ’11, ‘12
City Year Boston Alumni Board Member ‘13
National Manager of Alumni & Career Services ’14-present