written by Christopher Potter, Impact Manager at Parker-Varney Elementary School. Photo provided courtesy of John Benford Photography.
At our Red Jacket Ceremony, each member of the City Year New Hampshire community named a person or idea that they will think of when they wear their Red Jacket throughout this year of service. It was a profound experience, sitting in a strong circle in a room named after Dr. King’s vision of a universally reconciled and loving society, the Beloved Community. We heard dedications about students in need, friends who have passed, parents who made sacrifices, and teachers who were more than teachers. Every person had a meaningful reason for committing to this year of service, and I was grateful and moved to hear each one.
I dedicated my Red Jacket to the City of Manchester. The year before I joined the City Year staff, I served as a community organizer in St. Louis, where I helped students win a commitment from our alderman to renovate a run-down park in our neighborhood. After I left for New Hampshire and the students dispersed, the project was delayed. I worry that I taught the students that mentors are unreliable and public resources are out of their hands, even if they try to be involved. I decided I would stay in one place to build a strong community over many years. Manchester is that place for me. Manchester is representative of the nation demographically, economically, and politically, and I believe that if we can build a Beloved Community here, we can be a model for the country. When I put on my Red Jacket this year, I remember my service is given to Manchester, and not just for this year, but for many years.
My dedication was preceded by an emotional dedication to a friend who was transgender and took their own life. It was followed by an Americorps Member’s commitment to remain a stable, positive influence in the life of a student facing heartbreaking neglect. Another AmeriCorps Member, who struggled with learning disabilities, vowed to care for students with similar issues, even though others may give up on them.
These dedications are some reasons members of City Year serve; these are what the Red Jacket symbolizes. When you see a Red Jacket at a crosswalk or in a classroom, say hello, and remember that the Red Jacket represents many things, including a deeply personal commitment to service.