Last week I described the benefits City Year provides to schools, students, and corps members to an intimate crowd of about thirty onlookers, including journalists, the mayor of Sacramento, and my very own mother. I spoke at a press conference at Oak Ridge Elementary School, where the mayor and the planning committee announced the opening of City Year Sacramento in January 2012.
I was so nervous; I felt like each heartbeat was rocking my whole body.
I kept thinking, “I wish I had prepared more so I wouldn’t have to look at my notes so much. But…I wish I had prepared less because now I bet my whole speech sounds canned.”
In the end it all turned out alright. Better than alright, actually, because the event helped shed new light on my service as a whole.
First, it was the process of writing a testimonial. I had to think about how growing up in Sacramento impacted my decision to join City Year. I needed concrete statements about how City Year has impacted my life since I’ve started. I was forced to put words to emotions and reflect on my entire experience so far. Had it not been meant for such an important audience, I probably wouldn’t have put this much time or energy into reflection.
Next, it was meeting the players and the planners who are making the Sacramento site a reality: district officials, donors, and Mayor Kevin Johnson.
What really struck me during their lunch speeches was how much effort these people have put into bringing City Year to Sacramento and how much they believe in the work City Year does.
They raised $4 million over five years. This money could have gone to any number of projects or programs, but impressed by City Year’s results and reputation, they devoted it to bringing a site to their city.
For me, the most meaningful part of the day was when I stepped back from the podium and saw my mom crying, sitting next to our Executive Director Beach Pace. Turns out Beach had nudged her after my testimonial and said something like, “She did a good job, huh?” and then the waterworks began.
But I knew it wasn’t just my own accomplishment that my mom was bawling over. The whole press conference was a testimonial to the success and hope that City Year brings to every place it touches. When I talk to my mom on the phone, I mostly tell funny stories about the students I work with or I give vague descriptions of my day-to-day tasks.
This was the first time she could really grasp what it was I was doing, what it is we’re all doing, and the impact we’re making.
I don’t think she realized how big a deal we are. It was cool for me to see City Year from her eyes, seeing my year of service as a gift, a sacrifice, and a huge push toward positive change.
-Sachi Takahashi-Rial, Corps Member CYSJ