By Chris Azzolino, AmeriCorps member serving on the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care team at Hennigan Elementary School

Have you ever heard of a trim tab?

If you said no, I know the feeling. It wasn’t until college that I learned what it was. I was going through a phase that my roommates called “the major of the week.” I majored in everything from chemistry to social work. At one point I was obsessed with becoming an architect. I researched as much as I possibly could about the field and came across a world-famous architect named Buckminster Fuller. He was pretty much the Babe Ruth of architects. However, I think his most impressive creation came from what he wrote on his tombstone: “Call me Trim Tab.”  

For those of you who, like me, had never heard of a trim tab, allow me to explain. It turns a tiny little piece on the back of the rudder. The trim tab requires very little energy to work. Yet, if it were not working then the boat would not be able to operate properly. There is some extremely complicated engineering behind it, but all you need to know is that this one piece is responsible for turning a whole boat. 

My grandfather once told me, “You do not become extraordinary by doing extraordinary things. Instead, you become extraordinary by doing ordinary things extraordinarily.” Just like the trim tab, the ordinary parts of City Year is what makes the organization unique.

I think that  part of what makes City Year special is that AmeriCorps members show up every single day with unconditional energy and joy. One does not change a student’s life by having one huge conversation on the first day you meet that student. Instead, change is gradual. We are able to support a student by doing the little things with excellence every day, building his or her trust until they know that their AmeriCorps members are reliable parts of their lives.

City Year is built on many different values, and this is definitely an important one. From singing cheers and chants every morning to welcome students into the school to something as simple as showing up every day, City Year brings a sense of stability that so many kids don’t have in their life. These little things that happen every day are what makes it possible to work on the big things.


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