IJ (Idealist’s Journey) sessions are a time for corps members to talk about our service, who we are as leaders, and any challenges that we may be facing at the moment. Our last IJ session was particularly meaningful because we discussed our red jacket dedications.
On September 6, the entire City Year Washington, DC corps took part in a red jacket ceremony, where we each told the entire corps to what or to whom we were dedicating our red jacket, and therefore our year of service. Sharing with all 165 DC corps members was very powerful, but it was even more important for us to discuss the meaning behind our dedications during a small group session.
During our last IJ session, we got a chance to reflect privately on our dedications. This was important to me, and I got to think quietly about my decision to dedicate my jacket to the staff of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Having this time to reflect helped me realize that beyond the immense courage and professionalism of this group of people that I was lucky enough to work with in Tucson, the reason they inspired me to serve is their commitment to community. Interning in the Congresswoman’s office during my senior year of college helped me fall in love with my own city, and see the work that the staff does every single day to help other people find that love as well. They worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for Tucsonans and to give everything of themselves for the sake of their neighbors. It was this passion for service and love of community that made me want to give back in a big way, and working with them helped prepare me for City Year.
IJ also gave me a chance to share this story with my fellow corps members, and talk with them about my reason to serve. Even more moving than sharing my own story was hearing the stories of others. I was fascinated by the dedications of my fellow corps members because their stories are as diverse as we are. I heard stories about family, friends, and experiences that changed young people’s lives forever and brought them to City Year. There were common themes throughout, as we each expressed a sincere desire to create a better future for students in Washington, DC and build ourselves into leaders like those we have looked up to along the course of our own journeys. But ultimately, each story was unique, and seemed to fit that individual’s spirit of service perfectly. I realized that though our stories are vastly different, and we can never fully understand the personal nature of each other’s reasons to be here, the important thing is that we are here, in our red jackets and ready to serve.
Jillian Andrews is a corps member on the Capital One Team serving at Ferebee-Hope Elementary School.