By Joel Fralick, City Year DC, '13 and City Year Chicago '14
On the eve of my college graduation in May of 2012, I still had no idea where life would take me next. My studies taught me so much, but transitioning from the classroom to the workforce was, as many college graduates find out, not a simple feat. I didn’t have many opportunities that would lead to long-term professional development or any that sparked passion within me. Then, I found City Year.
The opportunity to serve with City Year was the best thing to happen to me after graduation, both personally and professionally. As a first year AmeriCorps member in Washington, DC, and then as a Team Leader in Chicago, I was able to provide much-needed services to youth in two of America’s districts that are in high need of support. But the service was more rewarding than I imagined. Here are a few of the ways that my two City Year service years prepared me for my professional journey:
I had the chance to take on leadership roles in countless aspects of my service. From planning and organizing a spring break camp for over 300 students, to engaging community members, corporate sponsors and politicians in transformational service projects, to leading my very own team through their year of service—there were ample opportunities at City Year for me to step up and develop my leadership abilities.
Often, the work City Year does can be difficult to explain to people outside of the organization. Despite the ambiguity of such service work where no two days are exactly alike, there are many chances to learn specific and transferrable skills. I have learned everything from how to manage and analyze various forms of data within multiple software systems, to creating and implementing logistics and day-of action plans for large-scale events. If there’s a skill you want to learn at City Year, chances are someone else in the organization will be willing and able to teach you.
When you join City Year, you immediately gain access to not only an expansive, global network of other AmeriCorps members and staff, but also countless AmeriCorps and City Year alumni, sponsors and affiliated service partners. In my two years of service with City Year, I made hundreds, if not thousands, of professional and personal human connections with people from every corner of the public and private spheres.
Teamwork and Collaboration
One of our core values at City Year is teamwork, and it’s easy to see why when you look at our service model. Every person, in every role, at City Year has a team to support them. Not a single day goes by in which it isn’t necessary to rely on and trust in the members of your team. The opportunity to learn how to function as a member of a team, while being exposed to extreme diversity in often challenging circumstances, cultivates a massive amount of self-confidence and allows individuals to gain an important skill for any career—collaboration.
Flexibility and Communication
City Year provides an extremely supportive framework and a culture that allows its members to constantly practice effective and efficient communication skills in order to overcome challenges.
All of these professional development benefits listed above are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what City Year and national service has given to me. As an organization, City Year makes it a priority to focus not only on students’ academic and social-emotional growth, but the organization also places a very high value on our AmeriCorps members’ development and their post-City Year plans.
As I approached the close of my second year of service, I asked myself, "What comes next?" I knew no matter what the answer to that question was, one thing was certain: I was more prepared to join the work force after serving for City Year than I had ever been. I was extremely fulfilled by the work I had done to get there. I remember hoping that I would be able to articulate my time in service in a meaningful way to my potential future employers. Lucky for me, that’s was (and still is) a priority for City Year, too.
Editorial note: This post was originally published on our website in May 2014. It has been updated and republished here.