A Letter to the Graduating Corps

City Year has a founding story, The Travler, that tells us that Social change is an adventure, a journey, and we meet many people along the way. We are all Travelers. Attitude colors every experience – it is the lens through which we see the world.Leydi Basilio, corps members of the 2012 – 2013 corps, wrote a letter to our graduating corps, congratulating them for their service and sharing the journey that she is on.

Dear City Year New York’s 2011 – 2012 corps,

Life is a journey and we are travellers within it. I have traveled from very far through a long bumpy road without the certainty of reaching a destination. Tomorrow is not promised but the choices we make today, whether big or small, will forever affect our future. Those choices define who we are.

My name is Leydi Basilio and I am the youngest of three living within a traditional Hispanic home in Brooklyn, New York. My family traveled many miles from the Dominican Republic in search of a better life. If someone had told me back then that I would today become a first generation college graduate, I would have never believed it. Being in a foreign land without any sense of direction and not knowing the language definitely placed us at a disadvantage, but it did not prevent me from striving for success.

Upon graduating SUNY Geneseo, I was faced with the daunting task of figuring out what will I do next and I am pleased with the choice I have made. City Year. I decided to dedicate a year to make a difference in the lives of students who are struggling in school. I hope that my story serves as a source of inspiration to them, motivates them to become leaders in their communities, and helps them take control over their own lives.

I chose to serve City Year because I too, was part of a failing public school in New York City and I know first hand, what its like to lose all motivation. I know what it means to not have someone by your side encouraging you to reach for the stars. I know what feels like to be on the verge of dropping out. I did not have the support from my family nor did I have the resources to succeed. But, I did it for my nephew. My sister’s pregnancy at 16 gave me the strength and motivation I needed to continue my education. My nephew is now eight and looks up to me for whatever he needs. It makes my day to see him smile and I am glad to be a role model for him. It is nice to see how much of a difference I am making in his life because of my choice to carve my own path and a pursue higher education.

My goal this year of service is to teach my students that there is a life beyond their neighborhoods. Regardless of the challenges they come across, giving up is not an option. My passion to serve stems from those people whom I call my guardian angels and who came into my life to give me the little push when I needed it. They believed in me when I did not believe in myself and guided me every step of the way. In fact, we have built such strong bonds that I consider them family. They are like the family I wished to have had. Thus, City Year is my way to pay forward. I want to become a guardian angel in the lives of those students in whose shoes I, too, once walked.

You all like me, made the choice to serve and make difference and I congratulate you for your service this year. I know you will move on to do great things after City Year and will continue to touch the lives of those you meet along your journey. Never cease to travel and never cease to dream because it is the choices in life that make us who we are and we can always make the right choice.

-Leydi Basilio