Red Jackets, Purple Eagles, and Realizing One’s Life Ambition

By Savannah Siders, corps member serving at McDonough Elementary School

I smile at the camera and snap, this moment has been captured in time. It’s June 15th, 2013 and I’m officially a high school graduate. My phone vibrates in my pocket; an email from City Year New Hampshire. I hold my breath as it loads, my anxiety overwhelming my thoughts. What if I don’t get accepted? This is my future on the line. What if? I close my eyes and suck in a breath. I open one eye.

“So, Savannah! I’m very excited to meet you next Saturday and we’ve decided yes, we’re going to match your City Year award. We’re considering creating a personalized scholarship based around it for you as well.” I stammer a thank you and say goodbye to the Dean of Admissions of my future college. I look over at Ian and Harvey in the kitchen of Wilson and crack up. It’s February 27th, 2014 and the last day of Camp City Year Winter Camps. my campers are running around in the gym while I receive some of the best news I’ve heard all week. I sit down and take a breath. I literally don’t even know how to react.


Savannah with her answer to McDonough’s Whiteboard Campaign question, highlighted in an earlier blog post by Savannah. (Savannah Siders, 2014).

It’s now March 6th, 2014 and I’m writing this during my prep period at school. My desk is covered in session plans and homework papers that I need to correct. I glance to my left at an illustration of President Taft that one of my students drew to attach to a report. I smile. My partner teacher walks into the classroom and I have her sign the papers I use to track how much time I am working with students. I sigh, think for a second, and realize that there is nothing I’d rather be doing than this.

When you hear that someone wants to take a gap year, what do you guess they’ll be doing? Working, doing nothing, being lazy? Who knows. City Year is the complete opposite. I’ve spent my gap year watching 27 kids grow into 27 preteens and I couldn’t be happier with the progress they’ve made. Watching my students grow is, vicariously, a unique way to watch myself grow. Looking back at where I was six months ago, I see a different person. City Year has changed my outlook on life and education and success, without a doubt. City Year has changed how I see myself. I now see someone with not only strong will, but strong work habits. I see someone with goals to reach and tools to reach them. I see a strong young professional instead of an unsure teenager. I never thought that a gap year could have such an effect on a person, but every time I look in the mirror, I see what a difference it has made.

As of right now, I am on track to be attending Niagara University in the fall with nearly a full ride. I will be majoring in Secondary Education with a focus in English. Without my City Year experience, I would have absolutely no clue that I have such a passion education and mentoring. Being a coach, a mentor, and a champion for my students is why I get up in the morning. Watching their eyes light up when they understand a concept is why I come to school every day. Hearing the passion in their voices is when they talk about what they want to be when they grow up reminds me why I commit to them for 50 hours a week. And there is no doubt in my mind that I honestly want to be witness to every little one of those little things for the rest of my career-based life.


About CityYear NH

City Year is a nonprofit that unites young people of all backgrounds for a demanding year of full-time service. As tutors, mentors, and role models, these idealistic leaders make a difference in the lives of children, and transform schools and neighborhoods across the US and in South Africa. For more information on how to get involved please call the City Year New Hampshire Recruitment hotline at 603-218-5101.
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