…my parents…my students…human potential…my grandmother…my fellow corps members
The City Year Red Jacket. Undoubtedly the most recognizable and iconic piece of the City Year uniform. While wearing it, City Year members are highly visible in the communities and the schools in which they serve. Ideally, community members and school children view a person in a Red Jacket as a leader, a responsible citizen, someone who is safe and helpful. The Red Jacket is a representation of the organization, of civic service, of excellence, and of responsibility.
It is almost a rite of passage at City Year to receive and to be able to wear your Red Jacket for the first time. To celebrate this, each year our entire site participates in the “Red Jacket Ceremony”. All corps members, senior corps members, and staff gather in circle (the classic City Year meeting style). One at a time, we each state to the rest of the group what we are dedicating our Red Jacket to for the year – the thing, person, or idea that drove them to serve in the first place or continues to spark that drive to serve on a daily basis. To begin, no one is wearing their jacket. Instead, they are all hung on the backs of our designated seats as pictured above. Then, as each person takes the floor to announce their dedication, the person to their right helps them put it on. The rest of us in the room quietly watch and listen. The setting is respectful, intimate, often times emotional, and very powerful.
In September, I had the great privilege of participating in my fourth “Red Jacket Ceremony” with City Year New Hampshire. As I have each year, I had goosebumps while listening to some dedications and walked away from the ceremony feeling inspired by, and a little closer to, the rest of the individuals at this site. I’m grateful to be a staff member for an organization with such a strong focus on the people that make it up, as it’s very important for me to know the people I work beside each day. What better a way to get to know someone better than to hear what it is that they hold so dear to their heart that they want to be reminded of it each time they put on their jacket? Often times, people reveal stories of important individuals in their lives – parents who sacrificed, teachers who supported, children who inspire. Others speak of great ideas, qualities they value or aspire to have, or visions for a better future. Each story is different, personal, and deeply meaningful. Sixty five people participated in this year’s ceremony and I learned something new about each one of them. I feel confident that if each of us is able to serve with the same power that those dedications held, great things will happen this year.
In the past three years, I have dedicated my Red Jacket to three very different but very important things to me: personal growth, the students in the Young Heroes Program, and my grandmother. This year, I felt a strong need to dedicate my jacket to the same idea as I did in my first year – personal growth. For me it is almost the essence of what I’ve learned through City Year – the value of continuously working on making myself a better person, teammate, and citizen. So when I put on my Red Jacket, I want to always challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone and to be open to new ways of thinking and acting. Further, I will work in (and out of) my Red Jacket to challenge others to push themselves. If you ever see someone in their red jacket, ask them what they dedicated theirs too. I guarantee you will be inspired.
-Katie, Development Associate for City Year New Hampshire