In honor of AmeriCorps Week, I’m interviewing people who are current or former AmeriCorps members, to talk with them about their service, and its impact on their communities and their careers. This interview is with my colleague at Idealist.org Hannah Kane who served with City Year.
Where did you serve?
I served primarily at the Boston Renaissance Charter School in 1999-2000 and then at various schools and community agencies in Washington, DC in 2000-2001.
What do you do now?
I am a technical project manager for Idealist.org. I’ve worn a few different hats at Idealist — trainer, team leader, event planner.
What were you doing before you joined AmeriCorps?
I had dropped out of college and was hanging out in jazz clubs and reading Kafka. Seriously. I was trying to figure out a good next step.
Why did you join AmeriCorps? What did you hope to accomplish?
Honestly, it was a pretty selfish reason. I was looking for something to help me get out of a deep depression. Learning about a new community and working with children fit the bill.
What did you do during your two terms of service?
My first year I served in an after-school program for second graders, and co-created and taught a service-learning curriculum for seventh graders. My second year I was a founding corps member for a new site, so we spent a lot of time building partnerships and engaging community members in one-day physical service projects. I also had the opportunity to expand on the service-learning curriculum I’d helped to design during my first year. We added a technology component, and taught it at two after-school programs, one in a low-income housing complex.
How many other City Year corps members served on your team with you?
About 10 each year.
What impact did the City Year corps members have on the community?
In Boston, where City Year started, our red jackets were very recognizable. Kids would shout out, “Hey City Year!” on the street, even if they didn’t know you personally. They knew that the red jacket meant they could trust you. I think that was a great service to provide to the community.
What was the greatest challenge?
City Year was intense in three significant ways – incredibly long hours, a somewhat consuming organizational culture (uniforms, chants, lots of internal lingo), and the fact that we worked in a truly diverse environment – more diverse than many schools and workplaces. It was diverse in terms of race and ethnicity, class, educational background, worldview, life experience, and more. That was great, and I regret that I haven’t been able to find a comparable experience since then. It was also incredibly challenging. There were always differences of opinion, different approaches, different styles of conflict resolution. I am so grateful to have had that experience, because it shaped my work style, which I consider to be collaborative, and made me appreciate the value of multiple perspectives
You’ve said that City Year has increased your confidence working in teams and with people different from you. How else has City Year helped you?
I can trace my career path to my time at City Year. My Service Director from my second year got me the job which led to my current job.
I use many of the skills I learned at City Year in my current work — training, technology, event planning — all things I learned during my corps years.
Finally, City Year helped me to get out of a dark, sad period in my life. I learned a significant lesson – helping others is the fastest, cheapest, most effective way to feel better.