By AJ Topps, AmeriCorps Member, Lincoln Financial and TJX Companies Supported Team,
Serving at Gossler Park Elementary School
Since its commencement in 1988, City Year has made a dedicated effort to make a better community, nation, and world for all of us. One of City Year’s values is the belief in the power of young people. This value has been expressed in different ways over time. My Aunt Bianca Lynch served in the 2003 corps at City Year Washington, DC. She served as a mentor for middle school students who had been suspended, and worked with them to get back on track to graduate. On the surface this is only slightly different from the role that corps members play today. I do believe however that this difference is vital to point out because it marks the fundamental change that City Year has gone through over the past few years. A good way to understand how City Year has evolved is to interview alumni, like my aunt, to see the similarities and differences between City Year then and now.
When asked what she thought the biggest change in City Year since her corps year was, Lynch said, “I worked out of a Boys’ and Girls’ Club. We used to have teams dedicated to drug/HIV prevention, organizing service projects, and Young Heroes. In School and On Track didn’t exist.” Young Heroes was a service learning and leadership program targeted towards middle school students. Corps Members spent the first semester recruiting students, while the second semester was filled with engaging activities about their community. Lynch described it as a “mini City Year” for them. She said, “I think City Year’s main goal remains the same but with more research and strategic partnerships, City Year has narrowed down their approach.” When asked if there were any aspects of CYs past service that she would like to see revisited, she quickly turned to Young Heroes. When she explained that it was similar to Starfish Corps, I quickly understood her admiration for the program. “As a teacher, I encounter students who don’t value community. I think Young Heroes helped students learn about and be proud of where they live,” said Lynch. These exact characteristics are ones that we are trying to instill in our students as current Corps Members through Starfish Corps.
Although my aunt served as a corps member over 10 years ago, she says that City Year still plays a huge role in her life. “I no longer live near a City Year site but I make it a point of traveling to New Orleans over MLK weekend for City Year Alumni Service Weekend. We hope to eventually expand this weekend to serve in other sites,” Lynch said. On top of her service over this weekend, City Year plays a role in her everyday life, both personally and professionally. “Sometimes I will find myself forming a strong circle when it isn’t even necessary," said Lynch.
City Year has shifted its focus to service inside of the school but it has remained true to its values. It still is still striving to achieve a Beloved Community through its service and belief in young people.
Click here to read a spotlight on Bianca Lynch from 2011.