By Andrew Dwyer, AmeriCorps member serving on the PTC team with Dearborn STEM Academy 
Header Photo: Team leaders Hope Landry, Joey Killian, and Lan Truong oversee a Halloween celebration event from October 2014.

Since joining City Year, I have noticed how similar City Year AmeriCorps teams are to running on a track team. Each team member has an individual goal that they are trying to accomplish in order to best serve their team. An individual’s accomplishment is everyone’s success, since it puts the team in a better position for reaching its goal. Yet, when it comes to a track team, the overall goal is to win. When it comes to our AmeriCorps service, the overall goal is to “make better happen,” supporting students in the schools we serve. How do we do that? We put forth our best selves.

Similar to sports teams having captains, City Year AmeriCorps teams have team leaders. Team leaders are City Year AmeriCorps members who have already done a year of service and returned for a second year to guide a team through their year of service. My team leader, Lan Truong, has played a large role in my service, as she continues to inspire me every day when it comes to the passion and dedication needed to serve to the best of my abilities. 

Providing us with an overview of what each day looks like is only the surface of what Lan does. As AmeriCorps members we are frequently told to never lose the human aspect of our service, especially when we are collaborating with our students. If I ever need to question how this is put into practice, I can always model how Lan treats us. In addition to having high expectations for our service, she is concerned about how my teammates and I are doing personally. She is always willing to reach out to us if she senses that we are having a bad day.

There was one time when I felt discouraged with my service. Feeling like I needed guidance, I sought her out and told her how I was feeling. As she built me back up and reminded me about all of the areas where I was succeeding, she told me that the one question that I should always ask myself and my students is “Are you putting forth your best self?” At the end of the day, that and that alone, is the only thing that we have full control over.

That question has remained at the back of my mind as I go through each day. Whether through directly serving my students, or preparing for the day, I realized that the most one can ask for is putting forth one’s best self in the everyday service we provide. We will not always feel successful, but we can always feel that we put forth our best effort. Lan’s passion and dedication to our team has allowed us to facilitate passion and dedication into our service. Strong leadership is important for any team. Without the leadership that I have on my team, my City Year experience would not be as positive, and with this leadership, I am inspired to do greater things.    

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