Our program started with Team Leader Emily Gottlieb introducing one of her students, who preformed their spoken word piece, ‘Dr. King Wouldn’t Like That,’ which spreads an anti-violent message in contrast to the violence that is seen throughout our city’s neighborhoods. In his piece, this student shared:
“Violence, is an uncurable (sic) disease that spreads rapidly. And most of us catch the sickness unhappily. Old cats graduated from the University of Violence with a Mastery, and passed it down to the youngsters in they family – that’s catastrophic if you askin me.”
He continued, saying:
“We need the truth to let loose, the guns grip the mic – tell the story to the people. Pick up a pen and write. Let’s stop the shooting - create a movement like the Civil Rights.”
Emily and her student observe downtown Chicago
Following that powerful performance, we heard from 5 AmeriCorps members, who shared how their year of service with City Year transformed them. One member, Yaslin Ruiz, had this to say about how her City Year experience reminded her of her own journey:
“My students needed an emotional revolution to start caring about them-selves, like I did. It's possible. And when that super slow process begins, amazing things happen. It may start with you, it may not. But understand that they know when you care genuinely, wholeheartedly, and unapologetically. And the outcome of this transformation in students - when they start caring - is incredible.”
AmeriCorps member Yaslin Ruiz shares her experience with our audience
Our keynote speaker for the night was Dr. Howard Fuller, distinguished Professor of Education, and Founder and Director of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning, at Marquette University. He delivered an impassioned speech, using the City Year phrase ‘Fired Up’ as an example of, not just how we approach our service with City Year, but how we should live our lives in general: Fired up for educational and social justice, fired up for equal rights, and fired up for the future.
Dr. Howard Fuller addresses our AmeriCorps members. He encouraged us all to stay 'Fired Up!' and motivated to enact change in our society
Following Dr. Fuller’s words of encouragement, we shifted to the tradition of distributing the Alter Corps Member of the Year Award, and the Comcast Senior Corps Member of the Year Award. City Year Chicago founder Michael Alter recognized AmeriCorps member Megan McCormick as our Corps Member of the Year, and Comcast Greater Chicago Director of External Affairs, Joe Higgins, recognized TJ Chatto as the Senior Corps Member of the Year.
Michael Alter (far left) recognized Megan McCormick as the Alter AmeriCorps Member of the Year, and Joe Higgins (second picture, far left) recognized TJ Chatto as the Comcast Senior Corps Member of the Year
After our awards ceremonies, it was time for AmeriCorps members to receive their diplomas! It was great seeing team sponsors, friends, and family line up to congratulate our new alumni!
To close us out for the evening, we heard from City Year Chicago Executive Director, Rebeca Nieves Huffman, who brought us all back to Dr. Fuller’s message; stay fired up. While pointing to the student who performed his spoken word piece, she encouraged alumni to continue pursuing their passions of educational and social justice, and reminded us all that this student represents why we do our work.
City Year Chicago Executive Director Rebeca Nieves Hufman closed out our graduation by thanking AmeriCorps members for their tireless service
We’d like to thank everyone – from team sponsors to community partners to family and friends – for supporting our AmeriCorps members throughout the year, and for joining us in celebrating them on their achievement of completing their year of service!
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