By Caitlyn Reilly, AmeriCorps member serving on the Hallsville Elementary School Team.
Last year, a friend asked me, “why City Year?” After a long list of incredible reasons why I felt called to serve with City Year New Hampshire, I ended by jokingly saying, “plus I get that sweet red jacket.” Although at the time it was just a silly remark, I would find out that it held a lot of truth. The jacket is a symbol of our Beloved Community. When you put it on, it brands you as a part of something greater than yourself. It represents City Year as well as our collective idealism. That red jacket can truly get you fired up to serve.
On September 14th, City Year New Hampshire gathered for a dedication ceremony where we each took the time to share who or what we dedicated our jacket to. We were told it could be dedicated it to a person in your life or an idea you held dear. The point was to dedicate your jacket, and ultimately your year of service, to someone or something that will motivate you to get out of bed and serve on the days when you’ve lost all motivation.
Being the indecisive person that I am, this assignment filled me with dread. How could I choose one person or one value? There are so many people and beliefs that are close to my heart and motivate be to be better and to do better. So, I decided to break the mold a bit and dedicate my jacket to various people and things; after all, I may need different types of motivation on different days, depending on what is dragging me down.
My first dedication was to an idea that will help me on the days when I feel like I’m not making an impact: the “aha” moments. In school, I was the kid who took a century to grasp a concept. Students and staff alike would try to help me but sometimes I just had to sit, think, and work until... “aha.” I got it. Finally understanding a concept is one of the best feelings in the world and I dedicated my jacket to the pursuit of making that a reality for my students.
My next dedication was to my sister, the person who will help me on the days when I’ve lost my passion. As a future educator my twin sister is filled with so much passion and drive for life and for shaping the minds of future generations. I can only hope to have an ounce of her dedication and hope for her work. This tied closely to my next dedication, my parents, that will motivate me on the days when I know I can do better. My parents raised me and my sisters to believe in everything that we are and everything that we do. They have supported me in every way imaginable and I want to make them proud by putting my all into my year of service.
Another dedication was to my faith to help me on the days when I get jaded in my work. My faith keeps me humble. It is what drives me to cherish every single day I get and to treat life as a gift. Through my faith, I am drawn closer to the human connection and I understand more fully that being able to do a year of service is a privilege and a duty.
Finally, for the days when I forget why I chose City Year, I dedicated my red jacket to the AmeriCorps community. I didn’t choose City Year for that “sweet red jacket.” I choose it because I wanted to be a part of something meaningful. I know many AmeriCorps alumni who have inspired me to dedicate a year of service to a cause greater than myself, so I wanted to dedicate my jacket to them. When I put on my bomber, I want to be reminded that I am a part of a large movement filled with people who are making our country and our world a greater place, every day.
After the ceremony, I questioned my dedications. Were they too cheesy? Did I forget to include a person or value of mine? I felt that what I said wasn’t good enough or didn’t encapsulate everything that was in my head and heart. That’s when I remembered the “why” behind the red jacket dedication. My dedication is mine and mine alone; it will stay in a pocket by my heart to keep me fired up to serve when the year gets hard. I hope to live up to the people and values I have dedicated my jacket to, both during my time with City Year and beyond.
If you or someone you know is interested in giving a year to national service, check out City Year's application homepage! Our next application deadlines are November 16th and January 25th.