Recently, we caught up with one of our dedicated board members, Melissa Pozniak, partner at BKD LLP, to learn more about her, why she is passionate about City Year Cleveland and what inspires her to serve.
City Year: How long have you served with City Year?
Melissa: I have proudly served on the board of City Year Cleveland for over five years.
City Year: What made you want to serve with City Year?
Melissa: I truly believe in the importance of education and I know firsthand how education can change your life and circumstances. I grew up in a rural community outside of Cleveland where less than 15 percent of the students went on to college. Neither of my parents had the opportunity to go to college, but they were determined to make sure their four children had that opportunity. Education allowed me to change my circumstance and end up as a partner of a large accounting firm. I see City Year Cleveland making a difference in students’ lives and giving them those same opportunities to change their circumstances.
City Year: What about City Year inspires you?
Melissa: There are so many inspiring things about City Year, but the passion of our AmeriCorps members and their ability to impact the lives of students is incredible. I am in awe of the commitment displayed by these young people to our community and our students. They are making an impact in the lives of these students, and in turn, making Cleveland a better place with a brighter future.
City Year: Share your favorite City Year experience?
Melissa: Wow, there are so many amazing experiences that it is hard to choose just one. I would say the most impactful experience I had was before I decided to serve on the board of City Year Cleveland. I was looking for an opportunity to get involved with an organization that was focused on education when I was introduced to City Year. I was invited to visit a high school and see our AmeriCorps members in action and what I saw was amazing. I met AmeriCorps members and heard stories about what inspired them to serve, which was a great experience. But the student I met that day sealed my commitment to this organization.
This one student in particular told me proudly about getting ready to play college basketball and how the City Year AmeriCorps members made that dream possible. The student explained that he was a good basketball player and had schools inquiring about him playing for their programs. But, he was overwhelmed by the idea of getting his grades up, taking the standard tests and applying to colleges. Then, he told me about his relationship with his City Year AmeriCorps members and how they helped him through that process and got him ready to graduate and attend college. This student was very clear that without the help of City Year, he had no one in his life who would have been able to help him with those things and instead of planning for college, he would have been headed down a much darker path.
My encounters that day solidified for me that City Year Cleveland is an organization that I needed to be involved with and that I wanted to help write more stories like this one.