By Javier Cartagena, Service Leader serving on the Beech Street Elementary School Team.
Here at our beautiful site in Manchester, New Hampshire, we are often recognized by people when we wear our most iconic uniform piece: the red bomber jacket. When we walk around the community with our bombers on, we are often shouted at with things like “Hey City Year!” or “How y’all feeling?” Or on other occasions when we are talking to community members about our service, we often get comments like “Oh you guys are the one with the red jackets!” or “I’ve seen you in the morning in front of City Hall with your red jackets.”
What some people might not know is that the red bomber jacket is more than just a piece of uniform for us. On September 14th our entire site gathered together, everyone from staff to first year AmeriCorps members, and we spent around two hours going one by one and sharing who or what we wanted to dedicate our bombers and year or service to this year. We could dedicate our bombers to anyone we wanted to, to any idea or concept or a combination of both. This process is filled with a lot of emotion, passion and honesty. The ceremony is beautiful in what it means to every single one of us, especially the moment when your peers help you put on your bomber jacket for the first time. This builds immense community within our site and gives us the opportunity to share why we chose to serve and how everyone is tackling this year or service.
For me, putting on the bomber is both a huge responsibility and a huge honor. Every day I get to go to work for something I really enjoy doing and, in the process, I get to help the students and communities reach their true potential while simultaneously they help me reach mine. I dedicated my bomber to everyone at City Year New Hampshire because for me the coming to City Year was the change I needed in my life. I spent two years in college mindlessly going through a routine that took the life out of me for a degree that I realize was not at all what I wanted for myself; this took a toll on me both mentally and emotionally. Last year I went through my first year at City Year and it gave me back my identity, allowing me to be myself again because of the people I got the privilege to work with and the opportunities that the program gave me. However, one year was not enough; the amount of work that can be accomplished wearing the red jacket goes beyond just the service year, and that is a big part of why I returned for a second year. Once again, I find myself surrounded by marvelous individuals with wonderful stories and personalities, and I get to be a part of their first experience with City Year. The AmeriCorps members that I’m working with blow me away every single day; the work they put in and the time they give is something that not only inspires me to be better every day, but it also keeps me motivated and passionate about my work. I am blessed to serve alongside such an incredible group of young leaders and honored to wear such powerful piece of clothing like our red bomber jackets.
Are you or someone you know interested in applying to serve with City Year? Check out our application homepage! Our next application deadline is November 16th.