A Spoonful of City Year Leadership

by Sarah Levant corps member serving on the Spingarn High School Team

I often wonder what Ghandi would think about. Did he ever get that horrible pit in his stomach when he spoke to thousands of people? I get nervous just talking to an auditorium of peers. What would I say to Nelson Mandela over a cup of tea? I rack my brain, trying to figure out what makes me so different than these super-humans who have inspired millions. Is it genetics? Upbringing? Timing? Are some people just destined for greatness? Or, are we all destined for greatness but become lost in the daily distractions of life? As a City Year corps member, I now realize every individual has the potential to create great change.  City Year has taught me attitude and personality are the ingredients that separate individuals from the masses. Good leaders are just like the secret ingredient in my grandmother’s chicken soup: mysterious, warm, and timed to perfection.

1) A Pinch of Personal Accountability

City Year stresses the importance of personal accountability. I respect this aspect of City Year because it emphasizes personal growth.  City Year holds each of its corps members to a standard of excellence. As a national organization, City Year expects nothing but the best from each individual.  Due to this norm, everyone holds themselves and each other to an incredibly high standard.

2) Churn the Community

Secondly, City Year is an amazing community that nurtures and supports young leaders. As a community, City Year pushes each of its corps members to become leaders in local communities. Since I admire my new friends and community, I would hate to let them down. Therefore, I find myself taking on responsibilities and soaring to new heights.

City Year’s formula for leadership works because it infiltrates all levels of the organization.  For example, our Executive Director, Jeff Franco encourages corps members to meet with him. Since Jeff shows that he cares about City Year’s big picture goals and the corps members as individuals, we are willing to go the extra mile. City Year invests in its corps members and alumni to excel not only as individuals, but as active and engaged citizens in our communities.

3) Now Add the Secret Spice

No one knows the secret ingredient of leadership, but City Year’s recipe for developing leaders works.  Good leaders are role models, and like my grandmother’s chicken soup, are always in short supply. As a City Year corps member, I feel like there are not enough of us to go around. So many DC students are in need of positive role models and mentors. Thankfully, City Year Washington, DC is expanding every year until 2015, when we will be serving full-time in the five DCPS high schools and their feeder schools that produce 50% of the students who dropout in DC.

City Year trains individuals to be leaders, and my hope is that one day I will be a super-human who will inspire millions.  I realize that these super-human leaders were after all only humans, only individuals. These individuals were part of a family or community and were once a peer or teacher. Each and every one of us has the potential to be leaders as long as we have the passion, personality, and attitude. We all have a unique gift or perspective that we can contribute to our communities and the world. City Year is a stepping stone to becoming such a leader. City Year hones our strengths, inspires our passions and emphasizes our endless opportunities.

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