By Alliy Schrader, City Year AmeriCorps member on the Gossler Park Elementary School Team supported by Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Lincoln Financial

When we found out our community meeting was going to be hosted in March, we knew it would be a time when the corps was feeling tired but still very fulfilled in their service. We wanted our community meeting to be simple yet engaging, inclusive yet individualized, and fun but restorative. Idealism, the belief and power of young people. That's the reason we are here doing what we're doing in the beautiful Granite State.

With a lull in the weather, and perhaps even a little in our spirits, we decided to make our theme “keep the flame alive”. We came up with the idea of building a fire in the middle of our meeting space to represent the fire inside each of us. Each individual team member that came up to present their part of the community meeting would bring something necessary to help build our fire as well as keep it alive once it was ignited . Additionally, the corps as a whole would be helping us build our fire by engaging in the activities, discussion, and fun that we had planned for them.

I was somewhat of our storyteller around the campfire for our community meeting. I did some research into what is necessary to build a fire and, as I was a Girl Scout for eight years, it brought back some wonderful memories of roasting s’mores in the wilderness of Oregon. As we assigned roles as well as what material they would be bringing to create our fire in our fire circle, it was really cool to see how each of us fit into the puzzle of the 90 minutes we had to share with the corps. I'll be honest with you, there were some bumps in the road. On top of our service during the week, camp at the end of February, jobs, personal lives, you name it, we all had a lot on our plates. There were meetings when we argued and more or less, we felt far from a community. Sometimes, you have to get broken down to get built back up. It isn’t easy or fun by any means, but it brought us back together. By the time it was the day of our community meeting, and even the week leading up, we felt like the team we once were again.

Any woodsman knows you have to have a solid foundation to build your fire upon. We began our meeting looking at one of the foundations of our service. We cannot forget the shoulders of giants on which we have stood for this service year and for the years in the past and the future. Emily Goupil, a City Year alumna from 2012, who served at Gossler Park School was our “Giant” for our meeting. She shared with us a spoken word poem about her time Gossler Park, specifically when she helped host the school talent show. Next, we needed everyone to be energized for us to collect our materials to build this fire. We split up into groups and played a game where group had to brainstorms lists of songs that had the word fire and the word love in them. For the next stage of the fire we needed dry wood to be the base. Tatiyana Murray shared with us about a student that touched her life deeply and the impact she had on his life, but also the impact he made on hers. Tinder is used to help ripple out flames once you light a match for your fire. Ben Resek led us in an activity where we rippled out joy to each other just like tinder does for a flame. Additionally, we needed kindling for a fire. Kindling is used to help wood catch once you light a match. Nick Lucchesi led us in a mindfulness activity to remind us of all the people that have gotten us to this point in our lives and how they have helped our service today. By this point, we had all the physical things we needed, but without a doubt, oxygen is the most necessary component to the fire. Jacklyn Trexler shared with us her life work. She discussed how things that may be go unnoticed by others can have the biggest impact on our lives. And lastly, Nina Santiago was our match. She invited her mother to our meeting and appreciated her in front of the entire corps. Her mother’s flame was passed on to Nina and shaped her into the woman she is today. It was a lovely and touching portion of our program.

We closed the meeting by reminding everyone that the most important thing about a fire is that you keep providing materials and energy for it to keep burning. If you simply let it burn out and not provide any fuel, the fire will die. This is a reminder that our time here is not done. For some of us, in two and a half months, the end in a certain chapter of our lives will be closing. But for others, this is simply the beginning. Regardless, our service is never truly done. There will always be work that needs to be done to keep our vision for our students and for the generations to come alive. I can honestly say that this community meeting brought us together as a team, as a site, and our collective flames got the fuel they needed to finish this year strong. 

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