One week ago today, City Year New Hampshire graduated its 2012 corps. The aftermath of the 51 person mass exodus on the site has been tremendous. The office is much quieter and lacks a certain energy and spark it had, only weeks ago. For us on the staff team, the idea of an uninteruped day of work seems heavenly, but the reality is, CYNH is missing something. Something vital. CYNH is missing its spirit.
Last Friday, Kate Meskey, a returning corps member from McDonough Elementary, was awarded the Spirit of City Year Award at graduation. The winner of this award is picked by his/her peers and is supposed to embody everything that City Year stands for.
When Kate was asked to address her fellow corps members, the message she delivered was poignant and really hit at the heart of this corps: no matter what obstacles they faced, how hard they laughed or cried, they were family through and through. Kate’s words really stuck with me and made me realize that the idea of family and togetherness is really the spirit of CYNH.
One of the many silver linings in graduating a new corps is knowing that they will forever be apart of the CYNH family; as well as waiting with palpable anticipation for the new group of 52 to come in and join. The CYNH Spirit is growing stronger everyday, and the CYNH corps of 2012 has left its mark.
I would like to share Kate’s words below in hopes that each of you feels the CYNH concept of family and is inspired by our spirit. Until next time, -Emerald Anderson-Ford
” Ten months ago, I sat in a circle with my fellow corps members and staff of City Year New Hampshire for something called a Red Jacket Ceremony. Here at City Year, we have a lot of meaningful meetings, retreats, and whole-site events, but the Red Jacket ceremony is particularly powerful because it’s the first time that each corps member receives his or her signature red jacket. As we received our jackets on that day ten months ago, we each had the opportunity to dedicate our jacket to a person, group of people, or cause that would give us inspiration every time we put on our jacket. Part of my personal dedication was to all 50 of my fellow corps members. I remember clearly looking around the room and saying to them, “I know that by the end of this year, I will have made 50 new best friends.”
Now, I’ll admit, that was a bit of a crazy statement. Who says that to a group of people who you’ve only known for a few weeks?! But after spending those few weeks getting to know my fellow corps members, hearing all about their individual paths that had led them to City Year, and seeing how dedicated and understanding they were, I knew these were the kinds of people I wanted in my life.
Let’s fast forward to today, June 15, 2012. Are we best friends? Are we still as close as my idealistic mind imagined we would be at the beginning of the year? I think both of those questions can be answered with a simple statement: We are family.
While the word “family” can be used in a very broad sense, it is the most accurate way to describe our relationships. Our CYNH family is one of love, laughter, enthusiasm, understanding, and diversity. We may not know every detail about every single person, but there is always that underlying sense of love that we have for each other. When we met 50 other people who shared similar ideals and goals, and who had agreed to give their time to the same cause, we automatically respected each other immediately and immensely.
Just like any family, we have spent a ridiculous amount of time together. The majority of our work weeks have been spent just with our 6 or 7 other teammates at school. However, during our busiest times of the year, when we were planning math and literacy nights, or working to pull off winter and spring camps for our kids, or just putting in extra hours planning after school programs —we got to work with and get to know people from other teams. While these events and projects were stressful at times, they were some of the most entertaining moments of my entire year. Whether we were having a dance party at the end of a long night of planning and prepping, playing silly games in the office, or just laughing hysterically at adorable stories about our amazing kids, we all helped each other stay sane and motivated. But, like any family, we have all had disagreements with each other. Luckily, we were able to recognize each other’s’ unique perspectives and collaborate to make every project phenomenal. Rather than having conflict divide us, it made us stronger in the end.
Our corps has accomplished so much this year, but the credit for our work extends out much farther than these 50 red jackets. First of all, we could not have done any of this without the incredibly supportive staff here at CYNH. Every single staff member saw our potential and challenged us to go above and beyond our own expectations, while also supporting, loving, and having tons of fun with us.
And of course, we must thank our partner teachers. I know that if all of us had a chance to stand up here and talk about our individual teachers, we would go on for hours, telling stories and singing their praise. They welcomed us, a group of young idealists who may have never even worked in a school before, into their classrooms and lives, and for that we are forever grateful. To our teachers, we cannot thank you all enough for your understanding attitude, wonderful guidance, and your openness to City Year in general. We have so much respect for the amazing work you do every day, and will never forget the impact you have had on our lives.
To our amazing community, here in Manchester and beyond, we would not even be here without your overwhelming support. Your interest in our work and dedication to helping our cause is what keeps us going when we’re having a bad day. Whether you are one of our sponsors, a business, or simply a local citizen offering thanks and gratitude, we appreciate every single one of you.
Finally, to our families and friends: words cannot describe how thankful we are for you all. City Year is a pretty difficult experience to describe to someone who has never done it. So when we called you up freaking out because we didn’t remember how to do 4th grade math, or were upset after a terrible day, you tried your best to understand. We may have found a family here at CYNH, but you are our rocks, and our permanent cheerleaders. We love you and could never have done this without you.
So, if I had to dedicate my jacket again today, would I make the same dedication? In a way, yes. I would dedicate my jacket to one concept: Family. That may mean my parents and siblings, my teammates, my classroom, or my community. Any way that I define it, I know that all of my different families are what inspire me to be a better person. As we all leave on our separate paths, some of us moving back across the country, and others staying in here in Manchester, I challenge all of you to find your family. Find people who will push you to be excellent, and to do excellent work. And if you are ever struggling, know that you always have your City Year family – here, and all over the country.”