Leadership After City Year: Isabel Huston


Name:  Isabel Huston

Hometown: Hopewell, NJ

College: Wesleyan University

Flagship Team: The Case Foundation Team Serving at Simon Elementary

Grade: 5th (during my corps year), 1st (when I have the time!)

What brought you to City Year?

Honestly, I didn’t have a job at graduation time, so I applied to City Year.  I knew a friend who had done the program a couple of years earlier and she liked it.  I figured if I wasn’t going to be able to get a “real” job, then I wanted to do something that would force me to actively do some good for the world.

What are two things you have learned in your year of service?

1)     Don’t sweat the small stuff—there are SO many little things in life that you cannot control.  Working for a non-profit and in such high-need communities compounds that.  You have to learn to focus on what you can control otherwise things get so incredibly overwhelming.

2)     Let others help you.  It is flat out impossible to take on the problems of the world by yourself.  Letting others help you to face your problems doesn’t mean failure.  If anything, the fact that you have others who are willing to help you should be viewed as a success—their concern comes from the fact that they love and respect you.

What is your favorite uniform part?

The pants.  Clearly.  High-waisted khaki is so hot right now.

What has been your favorite part of your City Year experience?

How do I pick just one? Goofing around with my fifth grade boys during class last year, being chased and brought down by packs of first graders like Gulliver and the Lilliputians on the playground, and getting a chance to be a Team Leader at Simon—it is a very special place.

What are you doing after service?

I will be spending the summer interning with the America’s Promise Alliance doing social media strategy and website design.  Then, in the fall I start at George Washington University’s Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Administration where I will be getting my Master’s of Public Policy.

Do you plan to continue volunteering after City Year?  In what capacity?

Yes.  Part of the reason that I decided to go to GW next year is because the Trachtenberg School has a service program that works with students at Anacostia High School.  I am planning on being involved with that program and am excited to stay connected to DCPS and the communities I have worked in for the past 2 years.

How did City Year influence your next step?  Did it change what you thought you were going to do next?  If so how?

I pretty much knew I was going back to school after City Year, but my service has strengthened my interest in social and education policy.  My experiences here gave me focus when I was applying to programs—I wanted a place that would let me approach the policy of education and poverty holistically because of what I have seen working in schools.  Also, doing a second year gave me the time to think hard about my next step and to really bear down when I was applying.

What are some ways that you feel your experience with City Year has set you up for success in the future (professionally or personally)?

Professionally, City Year has expanded my professional network—I’ve gotten to meet life-long role models (John Kerry, Harris Wofford, Ethel Kennedy!) and people who work in the field that I want to go into.

But the biggest benefits have been personal.  I have always considered myself to be a strong person and a good team player, but City Year has tested my resolve in a million different ways.  At this point I am more articulate, self-aware, and confident than I have ever been.  That is directly related to the ways that my service years have pushed me.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to next year’s corps members?

Go hard or go home.  You are headed into what will probably be one of the hardest years of your life.  You will get out of it what you put in, so give it everything.  By doing so you will cause your students to improve and inspire others and yourself to be better.

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