To the 2013 City Year Corps: A Message from President Jim Balfanz

To the City Year 2012-2013 corps:

First, welcome. As you settle into your new roles – and for many of you – become familiar with a new city, I want to thank you for your service and tell you how much we’re looking forward to working with you. Throughout the year, as I travel to many of our sites, I hope to introduce myself and get to know many of you.

I’m honored to serve City Year as its president. In my role, along with a national leadership team, I help steer the evolution of the organization as we grow and continue to shape our work in schools. But nearly 20 years ago, I began my time at City Year in the same position as you – as a corps member.

After college, I served at City Year Boston in a Head Start program, working with students to get them on track to succeed. I experienced many of the same emotions, felt the same anxieties, and asked many of the same questions you likely have as you prepare for your year of service.

So, as a City Year alum, let me offer this advice to you, the 2012-2013 City Year corps:

  • Set high expectations for your students from the start. Often, corps members find themselves focusing on those personal connections that are so vital to the success of City Year’s work. But part of that connection is a shared respect that comes from setting high expectations for your students’ attendance, behavior and academic performance.
  • Invest in your teammates. Lean on your teammates’ diverse strengths and experiences when you encounter obstacles or questions during the course of the school year. By learning from your teammates and getting to know their unique strengths, you can maximize impact and create a work environment defined by a shared sense of respect, understanding, compassion, communication, purpose, creativity and enjoyment.
  • Commit to collaboration. The success of your students is best achieved through strong collaboration with teachers, administrators, parents, community and other non-profit partners – all of whom share a mutual commitment to the accomplishments of the children you serve. Remember that a spirit of partnership will also enhance your own City Year experience as you learn from the different backgrounds and perspectives of the partners you work alongside.
  • Take advantage of leadership opportunities. Your site will hold service events. Your school will plan student activities. There will always be opportunities to help out and to lead. Through these experiences, you’ll build skills and have the opportunity to gain new perspectives. Remember, this isn’t a gap year, it’s a leap year. The more skills you can develop during your time as a corps member, the better position you’ll be in to enter the workforce afterwards.
  • Stay healthy and make time for your family and friends. Even though the days are long, always be sure to take the necessary measures to take care of yourself. Be sure to get enough sleep and find time for exercise. You’ll find your energy levels will go up and you’ll be better at your job. This also includes carving out the time to maintain your relationships with the people in your life who are important to you. Having the connection back home with a network of people who really know and care for you is critical. Set aside a time – even just an hour or so on a weekend – to make calls home. You’ll be refreshed and rejuvenated by maintaining that connection.

As a corps member, I recall that the days and weeks could seem both daunting and exciting at times. Always remember that each moment is critical to the larger effort – ensuring your students receive the individualized support they need to unlock their full potential in school and beyond. Fully give yourself to your City Year experience as it will be a transformational year for you and your team.

I hope to have a chance to meet many of you in person and look forward to hearing about the many ripples and joys you will experience in the year ahead.

Yours in Service,

Jim Balfanz

Want to stay connected to Jim? Follow him on Twitter: @JBalfanzCY

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