Served: City Year Boston 1994, on the Reebok team
Current occupation: Graphic Designer for Ashley Doiron Design and Executive Area Manager for Arbonne International
Fun fact: I studied Russian in college, and was actually in St. Petersburg when they changed the name from Leningrad!
City Year Boston (CYB): What first attracted you to City Year?
Ayanna Ashley Doiron (AAD): I was graduating from college with no idea of what to do. But I had a friend who was applying to City Year, and I thought it would be good to do for a bit. I knew very little about City Year at the time—I really was in my college world. But I wanted to stay local, and the thought of making a difference in my own city appealed to me—it was the idea of giving back before joining the professional world.
CYB: Tell me about a major challenge you faced during your service year and how you overcame it.
AAD: The hardest actual service challenge was being in sub-zero weather on City Hall Plaza, breaking off ice to do PT (physical training)! Aside from that, it was challenging being on a team sometimes. There were days that were really hard to get everyone working together and motivated, and it felt like you didn’t know how to come together and overcome it. But when we did come together, it was really rewarding. It was great to meet people from different backgrounds, socioeconomic backgrounds, from all parts of the city--people who I might not have met otherwise. And you learn more about the social justice issues that affect us all, which helped bring everyone together as well. ….It opened everyone’s world, fostered community, and increased our understanding of people.
CYB: Can you share a lesson that your service taught you that still resonates with you today?
AAD: Being able to give back as an individual really impacts a bigger group. A lot of people think, “It’s just me--what can I do?” While that’s true to some degree, you might not change the world on your own, but working together really does cause ripples—impacting the lives of people serving and then also impacts the community. Making someone feel better through service and helping their environment makes a bigger impact than I had realized previously.
CYB: A lot has changed at City Year over the years. Can you tell me one thing that you believe has stayed the same over the years?
AAD: In the corps, I see the same energy and excitement—when you’re at a City Year event and everyone is wearing their red jackets, there’s this inspiring energy that I think we always had. The optimism and passion for helping other people, I don’t think that has changed. And that’s what’s what drew me back to be part of City Year. My corps experience was a mixed bag at times, but there’s something about the organization as a whole that is changing so many lives that just inspires me.
CYB: Why do you continue to stay engaged?
AAD: One thing for me is that I’m impressed with how focused service has become, in that the helping kids in schools is a singular mission that we didn’t have when I was in the corps. Seeing that focus here and then it being duplicated in cities all over the country and the world, that impresses me. And being able to re-engage reminds people that they can still have an impact. We all changed a lot in our service years, and connect with people who share that same experience is really powerful. It was harder for me to re-engage, as an earlier alum—but I highly encourage people to keep that passion and connection alive because once you enter the work force, it’s a different world. People don’t have the same idealism. Staying involved with City Year helps to keep your service and personal mission in the forefront.