Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Making the Most of Your Service Year

By Lauren McDade, corps member serving at Spingarn High School

Advice for incoming corps members from the Spingarn High School Team.
  •  Learn as much as you can.
About the organization. About education. About the proper way to stencil a mural or give instructions to volunteers. There are a lot of things corps members learn over the course of their City Year and as we’re often telling students, the best way to learn is to stay engaged in your own education. That means asking questions and taking notes, whether you’re in a training or interacting with community members.

  •  Do more than your flagship service
As a corps member the team you serve with (whether it’s school- or office-based) takes up most of your time on any given day. However, there are many chances throughout the year to stretch your wings and add new things to your service repertoire, such as representing City Year at community outreach events as an ambassador or honing your managerial skills as a director for Camp City Year.

  •  Take advantage of every opportunity
In addition to getting the chance to make a difference in the lives of others, being a corps member at City Year Washington, DC gives you many chances to do something undeniably “cool,” such as lead Secretary of Education Arne Duncan around MLK Day service sites in Anacostia.

  •  Budget your time and your money
Living on a stipend is tough, though not impossible. The best way to make the most out of your year and not worry too much about finances is to budget your money from the very beginning. This way you can spend your time finding fun ways to make the most of the left over you have and taking advantage of the great, free things to do in DC. The same goes for your time. Days as corps member are rewarding, but they usually can’t be described as “short,” and it can be tempting to stay later at your main service site to tutor a student or help out with an event after hours. All of those things are great, but remembering to schedule time for yourself to relax and have fun out of uniform will make your year better in the long run.

  •  Your team is your family...make friends too
Your 1700 hours of service are mostly spent with your team and they can quickly become akin to your family. As one Spingarn corps member put it, the love you have for your team is unconditional and you can always know that your teammates have your back and you have theirs. While it’s easy to end up spending most of your time with your team, you should make an effort to get to know the other incredible people you’re serving beside in the nation’s capital.

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