I get bored easily. In 26 years, I have changed jobs frequently. When I applied for City Year, I expected a quick year of service in which I’d learn a thing or two, meet some nice people and get to live in a city I’d never been to. By January of my first year of service, I was in the same place I usually am when I’ve been involved with something for almost a year: I was looking for the next thing to do. Part of this was simple reflex. A year of service has a clear expiration date (graduation) and then many are off to pursue another opportunity City Year has afforded them, with either a service partner, an alumni connection, or even a return to school.

Serving for a year is difficult and rewarding in equal measure, and while I had been enjoying my first year, honing skills I had and learning to develop other skills I never knew I needed, the thought of interviewing for another year was daunting. City Year had turned out to be different than what I thought it’d be and I had no idea what to expect from a second year in possibly a different role.

So when I decided that the next thing for me would be to stay and become a Team Leader, I was surprised by my own decision. I continue to be surprised by this year. In short, I am happy I stayed. If I hadn’t I wouldn’t have experienced 200 community members coming to a safe, warm, fun Halloween event our City Year team put on in our school. I wouldn’t have experienced a group of “behavior” students sitting quietly and watching a foreign film we decided to show them after school and discussing it after. I would not have experienced getting to know a new team that is remarkable in their endurance, flexibility, and empathy. I would never have experienced being pushed to do more work in a tighter time frame than I thought was humanly possible and come out the other side with a finished product I was proud of. I never would have experienced the joy of having these students I work with come into my life and give me profound insight into America, the education system, and the true meaning of community.

I’m nearing the end of my second year, and you’re deciding whether to start your first. So, why join City Year? You may think you know what it is or what it will entail. You may think you understand what will be required of you. You may think you know what rewards you will receive during your service. But, you may be surprised.  

By Kyle Bialko, Team Leader at Linden McKinley STEM Academy

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