By Carol Bobrick, City Year New Hampshire AmeriCorps member serving on the Northwest Elementary School team, generously sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal. Photograph courtesy of John Benford Photography.
Service, the dedication of oneself to addressing shared civic challenges through unified action, is one of City Year New Hampshire’s core values. In consideration of this value of service, the Northwest Elementary School team hosted a monthly, site-wide Community Meeting where staff and AmeriCorps members explored our "Road to Service."
This “road” looks different for each individual, yet has resulted in every member of City Year New Hampshire making a personal decision to dedicate time, energy and effort to a cause greater than ourselves and to attend powerfully to the needs of others. While all of us have ended up at the same service destination – City Year – we have each traveled a unique road to get here. Northwest Elementary School’s Community Meeting provided an opportunity to not only reflect on our own personal paths of service, but also to embrace and celebrate everyone else’s and acknowledge that we are all in fact here together looking to make a positive impact on the Manchester community and especially on the lives of our students.
To give an inside glimpse into how our team made this happen, here’s an overview. First, several members of the team read a powerful poem that included the voice from each team member describing moments of their life's work that have brought them to service. The stories told through this poem came from interviews team members Kristy Hwang and Ash Russell conducted with the rest of the team to understand the struggles each has faced in life and the triumphs they have had that contributed to the decision to join City Year. Kristy and Ash selected quotes and details from each interview and compiled them into one cohesive poem.
Next, team members Victoria Hennessey and Carter Portwood led a reflective Ubuntu activity for the entire site to identify areas of interconnectivity. Ubuntu, another City Year core value, is a term borrowed from the South African Zulu language. It means, “I am a person through other people; my humanity is tied to yours.” The entire site was divided in to four groups where each member shared a meaningful service experience prior to City Year, then passed a ball of yarn to another person in the group until a web within each group was formed representing how service connects all of us.
In honor of those who came before us, each Community Meeting includes a section titled: “Shoulders of Giants.” This refers to one of the City Year founding stories based on a quote from Sir Isaac Newton saying, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Second year City Year member and Service Leader, Arthur Lyon, interviewed three former Northwest Elementary School team members: Amanda Vallador, Sheshank Mageshwar, and Megan Dillon. These “giants” shared stories about their time serving at City Year New Hampshire and their insight on the important aspects of service that this year’s group of AmeriCorps members should be mindful of while actively serving.
The Community Meeting ended with a lively game of “Founding Feud” (a spoof on Family Feud). Founding teams created at the start of the year before AmeriCorps members were assigned to school teams were reunited, and placed on either the “Ripples” or the “Joys” family (the family names referring to other City Year culture pieces: the founding story of “Ripples of Hope”, and the culture of sharing a personal joy at the start of each meeting). The families had to identify the most popular response to questions like, “Which City Year uniform piece is the most popular?” to “Why do we serve?” All in all, “Founding Feud” was an enlightening and entertaining time for the entire site.
For the Northwest Elementary School team, the Community Meeting was a great bonding experience as it was the first major project we completed together. It also brought the entire City Year New Hampshire site closer by reflecting on the theme of service and learning how our unique roads led us to be a more connected group of individuals.
If you or someone you know is interested in joining City Year, click here for information about the application process. The next application deadline is January 26.