By: Janine Bologna
I began my journey with City Year almost coincidentally. I first heard of the gap year program when asking a peer at Loyola University in Chicago what they would be doing after graduation. She was applying and said it may be something I would be interested in doing. I initially shrugged it off.
But, City Year was never far from my mind. When riding the subway a young man in a red jacket entered my car. I saw the big black letters on the back of his jacket that spelled out “City Year." With a bit of hesitation, I walked over to him and said “I just heard about you from a friend." The overwhelmingly friendly AmeriCorps member, Ryan from City Year Chicago, proceeded to engage me in a conversation and told me all about his year of service. Even though I missed my stop on the subway, I felt I had come to a more important destination.
With the excitement I felt from the conversation with Ryan and my college peer, I applied and was accepted into City Year Detroit. Little did I know that this year-long program would ultimately change my life forever.
The biggest impact City Year made on my life was the realization that I deeply cared about social justice in the workplace and a career that positively impacted others. I decided to go back to school to further my education in the social work field.
After months of researching, speaking with prospective students and visiting schools, I decided to attend the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis to pursue a Masters in Social Work and Public Health. I choose this particular program because it mirrored many of the City Year’s learning processes. Just as City Year valued self-motivated learning, reflection and experiential learning, the Brown School offered personal choices within academic concentrations and specializations, faculty and advisor guidance, as well as individualized practicum opportunities.
I graduated with my M.S.W. in May of 2015 and, looking back, I feel confident that I attained all of the learning objectives I had outlined when transitioning from City Year to graduate school. In the same coincidental manner that I had originally learned about City Year, I learned about the Impact Manager position at City Year through a conversation with an AmeriCorps member. I knew that once again either the universe or Michael Brown (CEO and co-founder of City Year) was telling me that City Year is where I belonged.
As an Impact Manager with City Year Detroit, I am now involved in larger, structural support of Detroit neighborhoods and schools. I am constantly striving to create a more socially-just world for my students, our community with my a team of young, idealistic AmeriCorps members.
City Year served as my stepping stone to discovering my passions and launching my career. Fate intervened and brought me back to City Year to ensure I can make the most impact possible.