Sunday, March 13, 2011


By Alexandra Ossola, corps member serving at Ferbee-Hope Elementary School

One of the most powerful mantras in City Year is not one whose significance is initially apparent, nor is it more so even upon choral repetition. Each word in this simple phrase has deep meaning for the City Year vision, but also for the experience that corps members have with the organization. Personally, the word “purpose” is one that has had the most resonance with me throughout my service year.
Purpose to me means having a reason to drag my exhausted body out of bed and into the shower at 5:30 AM. It embodies itself when I greet the students, who wrap themselves around my waist because they are happy to see me back at school with them again. I inhale it when I pass out breakfast to students who may not otherwise get any, and I exhale it every time a kid tells me he wants to read a book to me. I let it flow through me every time a student correctly uses one of the words I taught her or is finally able to correctly pronounce the letters t and h together. It wraps itself around me when I comfort a sobbing child in my arms when he has seen more than any eight-year-old should ever have to.

Purpose sneaks up on me in team meetings, proclaiming our successes or dreaming up future events. It sits on my shoulder when I forget about my pride and ask a teammate for help, and it forms my face into a smile when a teammate leans on me for emotional support.

Sometimes we play hide and seek on those rough days. But no matter if purpose seems to be evading me at the end of one day, I know it will meet up with me again the next day as long as I just keep coming back.

The purpose that I have found in my life thanks to my work in City Year has deeply affected me. It’s a quality I believe is rare to find in a first job out of college. When my service year ends and I try to extricate myself from my students’ lives (and vice-versa), I know I will look back on this year as one of the happiest times of my life. A time that was overflowing with purpose.

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