Written by Andy Jordan, 23 years old from Milford, MA, serving as The Team Leader at Parker-Varney Elementary School co-sponsored by Dartmouth-Hitchcock and The TJX Companies, Inc.
As I reflect on two years of service at City Year New Hampshire, a lot of feelings, emotions, and moments come to mind. Winning the Spirit of City Year Award has been truly an honor and a blessing in disguise as it’s helped me to actively reflect on my experiences. Through frustration and exhaustion, a higher level of poise and maturity rises. Through conflict and disagreement, a higher level of acceptance and communication rises. Through struggle and negativity, a higher level of success and positivity rises.
Coming to City Year, I had no idea what I was getting into. It seemed like some great service work in a school for a year or maybe two with the potential of landing a job afterwards. Although this has become partially true, it is so much more than what it seems. The amazing staff at CYNH challenges you to fully immerse yourself in the City Year experience and I can say, proudly, that I dove in head first. Do exercises on display in front of City Hall? Sure thing. Surround yourself with elementary school students four days a week? You got it. Work harder on after-school lesson plans and parent engagement nights than you worked on college essays? Okay. Share your story in front of board members and members of the New Hampshire Legislature? Yes. Saying yes to any and all opportunities made my two years incredible. Although I didn’t know what I was getting into, I certainly got a lot out of it.
Now I’m thinking about just how much I’ve really learned. At City Year we have our “I learned” statements. Not only are we asked to commit to ten months of full-time national service, we are then asked to sum it up in a sentence or maybe two. Last year, I learned that a positive outlook can take you anywhere. This year, I learned that I am broken. I kind of did a 180 on that one. But after hearing Bryan Stevenson, a speaker at City Year’s National Leadership Summit, talk about the idea of brokenness, I knew what I had learned was true.
Bryan Stevenson has been an advocate for justice for many years and works closely with people on death row. He spoke of a realization he had after a conversation with an inmate who had their execution date pushed forward. The conversation was a struggle and he found himself not knowing what to say to this broken man. He realized that he doesn’t do what he does for all the recognition, or meaning, or money. He realized that he does what he does because he is broken too. This to me exemplifies the highest level of Ubuntu there is. Truly living through and connecting to others. So although I may have learned that I am broken, I know that in brokenness I can see things I might not have otherwise seen and help people who I might not have otherwise helped. In the end, I grow and benefit just as much as anyone else.
My experience and the recognition I’ve received is largely due to the people I have in my life and who have supported me on this journey. My amazing family and friends, ready to build me up after any fall. My amazing teams of the last two years’, teaching me that it’s okay to be me. My amazing managers and staff team, investing in me more than anyone I’ve ever known. My amazing students, who opened my eyes to many more things than I did for them. With all these amazing people in my life, I’m just trying to keep up.