Just as our AmeriCorps members give their all to support our students, our organization and staff strive to give our AmeriCorps members the support they need to thrive and grow during their year in service and beyond. As part of the service year, City Year AmeriCorps members receive professional development training and coaching as they determine what’s the next step for them – whether that’s spending a second year with City Year or moving on to a variety of career paths.
Terrell Garrett, a City Year Washington, D.C. ’11 alumnus, says he benefitted greatly from City Year’s investment in his professional development and personal growth. “City Year was one of the most eye-opening, life-changing experiences I’ve ever had in my life.”
Terrell is now the Director of Teacher Support at OneGoal, a program where high school juniors and seniors receive support with the college application process and throughout their first year of college. Students apply to the program and, if selected, Terrell trains their teacher to learn how to best support the student during the transition from high school to college. The program’s members are all “students who typically wouldn’t receive traditional resources in terms of access to scholarship programs or other forms of support” Terrell says.
“I’m helping students to seize opportunities and am opening doors for them, similar to my service in my time at City Year,” Terrell explains “City Year was an amazing experience that opened my eyes to the world of education and systemic racism.” During his corps year, he learned that there are innovative ways that mentors and caring adults can help “level the playing field” for their students.
Terrell has seen the power of mentors in his own life. He sees himself as a “byproduct of mentorship programs,” and states that it’s programs like City Year that kept him on a straight path growing up. “Growing up in Philadelphia, I had the opportunity to do a lot of good, and the opportunity to do a lot of bad. For me, being active in afterschool programs, I knew there was something better. I just wasn’t sure how to get there. Having mentors in those programs who were a little older than me to look up to, made me realize I had a lot of potential, and if I didn’t use it for good, I [could] find myself in a bad place.”
Terrell eventually decided to serve with City Year to pay it forward to other kids who grew up in the same situation.
It’s at City Year, Washington D.C., where Terrell found his calling in the field of education. “I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do in education,” he explains, “but City Year showed me that I wanted to serve individuals who, like myself, would’ve made a left turn and not the right one.” Terrell feels strongly that if it wasn’t for the mentors he had through his afterschool programs, there’s a high chance he could’ve gone down the wrong path and wouldn’t be where he is today.
The value of mentorship doesn’t diminish with age. Bosses, teammates and colleagues can also serve as mentors to young professionals. Terrell looks back on his time with City Year and is especially appreciative of the mentorship from his Impact Manager and other staff. “Whether that meant teaching me basic email etiquette, giving me public speaking opportunities or really just teaching me how to hone my voice and my leadership skills as a Team Leader, those who supported my professional development at City Year showed me a lot about myself that I didn’t know before,” Terrell says.
“City Year is my trampoline – it took me to new heights,” he says. “I didn’t know a lot about what was out there and the organization really helped me learn how to seize the moment. Through helping others, I had the opportunity to help myself, too.”
After City Year, Terrell pursued his degree in Higher Education and Administration in Student Affairs at George Washington University, where his Segal Education Award was matched by the university. Through both of these experiences, Terrell learned that it takes a village to find effective and innovative ways to close the gap on educational inequity.
“How do you change a system that wasn’t made for [people of color]?” Terrell asks. “By banding together, we can work together to provide opportunities to people who deserve it the most.”