Dear Corps Members of City Year New Hampshire,
I had an eight-hour drive ahead of me, miles of roads to cover before arriving at my new home in New Hampshire. Three months after college and I was ready for the next big adventure – a year of service. But I was clinging to the past, thinking that I didn’t need to make friends. I was there to do my service and move on to the real things that I would do with my life. I was a reality show cliché. Basic Training Academy changed that for me.
My name is Paul Riley and I served at Seabrook Middle School in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 as a Resource Development Project Leader. When I served, I came face to face with an eighteen year old with dreadlocks, wiser than most adults I knew and completely earnest in his enthusiasm. I met leaders who believed truly in the work and spirit of City Year, women and men who I came to admire and respect. I discovered a community of idealism that told me that the world could be better and I could play a part in that change. I realized how serious the responsibility that I had taken on, how unique the chance to meet and know so many truly incredible people. BTA told me I must commit to changing the world or head back out the door. I committed.
You will never have the chance to go through BTA again. Regardless of the delight you may feel to escape full days of trainings, this is a sad thing. You will never get the chance to discover City Year, to enter into a new world of red jackets and spirit breaks. You will never again have the freedoms of BTA, the lightness of carefree evenings. It is not an easy road ahead.
But it is certainly the best road. Looking back on my corps year, I have more memories of my service than BTA: nine months of eighth grade math class, a snowy Winter Camp, setting up the auction room for Starry Starry Night, mural painting at GYSD. But none of it would have been possible, none of it would have made a difference, without BTA. Those first 30 days are for you. They’re an opportunity for City Year to give you as much idealistic energy as possible. The next nine months are for you to send that energy into classrooms and libraries, cafetoriums and parks, City Hall plaza and the entire Granite State.
I was honored to have the opportunity to hear your “Why I Serve” statements at Opening Day. I still have mine taped to the hutch above my desk. “I serve because I want to end every day exhausted and drained, knowing that everything I did mattered.” I repeated that sentence to myself each early morning, the sun still not up, as I zipped up my red jacket for those nine remaining months. I was committed.
Only you know what you want your year to be. You can share your leadership mission statement and your goals with others – and indeed I hope you do. You are not alone in your service; you have your teammates and sitemates and many alumni who were in your boots before you. We are here to support you. But these next nine months are yours to use how you wish. I hope that you commit to them fiercely and passionately, burning red with the spirit to change the world. I thank you for what you have done and will continue to do. I thank you for committing.
Yours in Service,