By Rebecca Leclerc, AmeriCorps member serving on the Wellington Management team at Trotter Innovation School

When I think back to my first year of service with City Year, I reminisce on conversations with students, funny memories from our afterschool program and the amazing team I spent my year with. Every day I serve at Trotter Innovation School in Dorchester, I am reminded of another moment that made my year memorable. But there’s something to City Year that doesn’t tend to stick in your memories, instead it is reflected in how you act. City Year builds up the leader within you, and after a year of service, you emerge a different person than you entered.

My teammates from my first year of service claim that they saw significant change in much earlier in me though, right around the beginning of December. This is completely credited to City Year’s Northeast Leadership Academy, more commonly known as NELA. NELA is a unique opportunity for first year AmeriCorps members to attend during their year of service. It brings together the Boston, New Hampshire, New York and Providence sites for a three day leadership experience of community building, reflection, collaboration, and leadership sessions.

For photos of NELA, click here.

At NELA, first year AmeriCorps members are placed on teams where they get to interact with a few people from each site, and City Year Boston AmeriCorps members host people from New Hampshire, New York and Providence at their homes and apartments. This creates a diversity of perspectives when reflecting on the days’ lessons and speakers, and among our featured presenters were members of City Year senior leadership:  Michael Brown, CEO and Co-Founder, Charlie Rose, Senior Vice President and Dean, and Stephen Spaloss, Regional Vice President.

My memories of NELA are not only filled with lessons learned and best practices shared, but with the relationships I built with other people. As NELA 2014 was quickly approaching, my NELA teammates from last all started talking again, reminiscing on last year and talking about this one, as we have all stayed with City Year to serve a second year. This made me realize how much I wanted this year’s group to have the same powerful experience.

I was lucky enough to be able to help plan “Big Night,” a community building event which gave AmeriCorps members the opportunity to showcase their talents, share a powerful quote or memory, or simply learn something about another person. As the night approached and the setup was done, I realized that Big Night didn’t feel quite so “big” or magical to me this year. That is also when I realized that I was not a part of this group but I was privileged to be an outsider making it magical for the people that were participating.

NELA was an amazing opportunity where I was able to grow substantially. The things I learned, the relationships I built and the memories I made are unforgettable. NELA allowed me to grow into the leader I am, which allowed me to become a Team Leader serving a second year with City Year. I am excited to see how the AmeriCorps members at NELA this year continue to grow and lead their teams through the next six months.

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