This post originally appeared on our former blog in March 2014. It has been republished in its original form here.

James and Gino reunion

By Gino Zavala, AmeriCorps alumnus ’14

It was City Year Boston’s Legal Community Breakfast on February 27, and 400 members of the Boston legal community gathered to learn about City Year and the service we provide. I had the opportunity to share why I serve in front of this audience. Among other reasons, I said, “I serve so that one day my students can have the opportunity to wear this red jacket and help those coming up from behind them.” That line meant a lot to me because I am an example of this outcome. When I was a student at Dearborn Middle School, a City Year team was serving there, just as the PTC team is doing this year. My corps members inspired me, and now I, too, am a City Year corps member.

Delivering the final remarks of the breakfast event was James Ward, Vice President of Artemis Capital Partners and one of City Year Boston’s board members. As he entered the stage, I felt a sense of familiarity with him, but couldn’t put my finger on it. When he said that he served as a corps member in 2004 and 2005, I clapped with the rest of the crowd and wondered where he served. Perhaps I’d seen him in an old City Year photo.

After the event wrapped up, and all the speakers were finished with group photos, I went up to James and congratulated him for a great speech. He kindly congratulated me as well and told me that I did a great job.

As I shook his hand, something struck me—the sense of familiarity was stronger than what I felt when I saw at him from afar. I quickly asked, “Did you serve at the Dearborn Middle School near Dudley?” Before he even answered, I followed up with a second question, “When you served, did you serve in a history class?”

He looked at me curiously and replied, “Yes I served at the Dearborn in Dudley, and yes, it was in a history class.”

I smiled in excitement and yelled, “You’re my City Year!”

He was stunned, and I was silent. His eyes lit up as he recognized me. I said, “I remember you came in class with a girl, and both of you had the khakis, the Timberlands [boots] and the red jackets. Presenting in front of the whole class, you used to help me. I really don’t remember much about that class but I do remember you. It’s been so long.”

James replied, “I got Goosebumps man. I remember you. It’s amazing that you’re doing City Year. I’m sorry—I’m mind-blown right now.”

In the end, James was really happy to find out that one of his students is now serving with City Year. We then took pictures together and caught up on each other’s’ lives. He was definitely right; it was a “mind-blowing” morning, and I carried that feeling of excitement with me for the rest of the day.

I had a good feeling making the decision to join City Year. I serve to give back to my city and help my students make good decisions. Especially after seeing James again, I would want them to have the same experience. I would love to see one of my students wearing that red jacket.

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