What to Know About Leadership Development at City Year

Today’s guest blogger is Christopher McCauley, Corps Member on the P.S. 206M Citizens team, serving in East Harlem.

level five leadership

When I laced up my Timberland boots and put on my red jacket for the first time, I was excited about all of the opportunities ahead of me—working with students, learning about teaching methods and curriculum, and collaborating with a diverse group of people, just to name a few.  But something I didn’t expect to get out of my year of service was leadership and professional skills that would benefit me down the line. Although I am grateful for all of the experiences I’ve had with City Year, the leadership development I have received is what I appreciate most.

The Idealist Journey: Be, Know, and Do

When my fellow Corps Members and I began City Year, we began what we call the Idealist’s Journey (IJ).  IJ is a leadership development sequence that all Corps Members follow over the course of their ten months of service. City Year uses a model entitled The Flame of Idealism, which encompasses “Be”, “Know” and “Do”. The “do” focuses on exactly what our task is—providing focused and intentional service to our students in schools, in order to ensure their continued success. As Corps Members, we learn and grow by spending this time working with our students. The “know” focuses on the skills we need to actually do our service; we grow this aspect of our leadership development through on-going training on everything from literacy strategies to behavior management techniques.  Finally, the “be,” which is the focus of IJ, allows us to develop our purpose, while strengthening critical thinking skills though small group discussions and activities outlined in a comprehensive workbook designed by leadership development staff at City Year headquarters.

The Idealist Journey is an important part of service because it helps Corps Members connect their personal goals to the purpose of our service—helping the students. For me, IJ helped me feel connected to my fellow Corps Members at other schools, in other parts of New York, and even in other parts of the country.

Why is it important?

While I had a lot of work experience prior to the start of my service, I still looked at City Year as an opportunity to further the skills I gained while in college and working abroad.  From day one, City Year placed an importance on LACY—Life/Leadership After City Year.  We, as Corps Members, were constantly provided with opportunities to consider our futures, while always keeping in mind how our Corps Member experience could help us to further our careers.  Because of City Year, I was able to perfect my resume at several writing seminars. I was able to network with employees from corporate sponsors and get advice about career interests. I even got a job interview out of a casual conversation I had with someone at a LACY event. Because of these opportunities, along with the leadership skills I’ve gained over the past ten months, I feel confident in my professional capabilities as I move into the future and continue my service for another year. My advice to future Corps Members is to approach the Idealist Journey with an open mind, a professional attitude, and a willingness to grow, in order to get the most out of your City Year experience.