Five Reasons I Wish I Had Joined City Year Before College


By corps member Liane Toohey serving on the Comcast Team at Browne Education Campus

I used to be amazed that anyone would want to join City Year at eighteen. How would they handle such a challenging year without all the growth and perspective that comes with the post-high school – especially college – experience? As our service goes on, however, I am consistently humbled by the dedication and innovation shown by the younger members of my flagship team. It is clear to me now that the skills developed at City Year can be amazingly valuable for an undergraduate. Now I am amazed that anyone would want to go to college without first doing a year of service. Here are my top five reasons why:

1.   You learn what you’re passionate about:

City Year takes young idealists interested in generating change and exposes them to different ways to do it. Every Friday, corps members attend trainings that discuss a wide variety of fields and opportunities during serial sessions like Learning from Leaders, Leadership After City Year, and Career Fairs. Developing this knowledge before college allows corps members to focus their education on areas they already know they are interested in. Says 2007-2008 City Year San Antonio alumna Grechen Curry of how her corps year prepared her for undergraduate, “When I came to college, I had a better understanding of what was important to me and therefore came to school motivated and ready to serve in a new setting.”

2.   You develop experience working in and leading a group

Many undergraduates shudder at the phrase “Group Project,” but working in a group is a way of life for corps members. Whether working with teammates to plan an event or working with other corps members to design a training day for the rest of the corps, we leave City Year comfortable with managing group responsibilities. “When I was in high school I was terrified at the prospect of leading. During my City Year experience I was pushed and challenged in ways that forced me to…become a better, more confident version of myself,” says Curry.

3.   You’re independent – in a supportive environment

When I went to college, it was the first time I had ever been away from home. The pure freedom I felt was overwhelming, and to be honest I didn’t always use that freedom wisely. For many of my 18-year-old coworkers, their corps year is also their first time on their own. While they still face the responsibilities of managing their own schedule, they also have their fellow team members and Team Leader to offer support and advice to address any challenges that arise.

4.   Your time management skills improve dramatically

Corps members make the most out of their one planning period a day: writing lesson plans, making decorations for an upcoming event, photocopying worksheets for pull-out groups, and writing blogs, to name a few activities. This translates directly into being able to research and write that big term paper as efficiently as possible while concurrently managing work for other classes.

5.   You learn to solve problems proactively

Not everything goes exactly as planned during a corps year. When students’ educations are on the line, however, corps members quickly learn how to respond to challenges effectively and how to be flexible. I often struggled at my work-study jobs when my work style differed from that of my supervisors, but as a City Year corps member I have developed the skills to work through those differences.

The next and final application deadline is April 30th. Apply now!

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