Alumni Spotlight: Helping Others Follow My Footsteps

Today’s guest blogger is Deborah Walnicki, alum of City Year New York’s 2009-2010 corps. Deborah is a sophomore at SUNY New Paltz where she serves as a Campus Recruitment Ambassador for City Year. To learn more about this program please click here.

Deborah is City Year New York's Campus Recruitment Ambassador at SUNY New Paltz

My year of service in East Harlem was the most challenging and rewarding year of my life. In the fall of 2009 I moved from my rural town in Vermont to New York City, without knowing a soul. I was 17 years old, bright-eyed and eager to make a difference. Every day for the next 10 months I shared my passion for improving the lives and education of children with my team of 11 diverse corps members in PS/MS 57.

I was constantly inspired and challenged with my work providing mentoring and tutoring sessions, enrichment clubs, and after school programming for my students. I worked tirelessly from 7:45am to 6pm to engage students, encourage them, and it was incredible to watch the children grow as we aided in their educational and personal progress. Even now, two years later, when I visit PS/MS 57, I still love to see my students’ face’s light when they see me and yell “Miss Deborah!” 

I know that I am a part of a legacy that is keeping students on track to graduate and helping them receive the support and opportunities they deserve, but this year has also made a profound difference in my life. Before City Year I was unsure of what I wanted to study in college or what I wanted to dedicate my life to. I knew that joining City Year would allow me to gain leadership skills, network, and make a difference, but I had no idea how it would help me discover my own passions.

During my City Year I created a leadership club which educated students on social justice issues and empowered them to make a difference in their own communities. It’s truly remarkable the discussions I had with students as young as 8 years old. When it was time to choose a college and major it was suddenly clear to me that I need to follow my passions of social justice and working in the non-profit field. I am now studying Sociology Human Services at SUNY New Paltz and it is a perfect fit.

As a student at SUNY New Paltz, it’s exciting that I can be an ambassador for City Year. This campus is full of amazing leaders who are enthusiastic about using their education to create real change. I find that my peers have the energy and idealism but are unaware of programs like City Year. As a Campus Recruitment Ambassador I can present the opportunity that they otherwise may not have known existed. I enjoy sharing meaningful conversations with future corps members and I’m inspired knowing that they will someday follow in my footsteps. I hope to spread the word about City Year so the youth I care about in inner city schools can continue to have the best tutors, mentors and role models.