City Year Seattle/King County corps member, Becka Gross, is serving with the JPMorgan Chase Diplomas Now team at Denny International Middle School. Below she recounts the power of City Year’s Opening Day.
On Friday, September 21, the 2012-13 City Year Seattle/King County corps ran through the doors of City Hall joining an audience of friends, family, board members, donors, and elected officials to officially kick off the start of full-time service in schools. City Year Executive Director, Simon Amiel, fired up the audience and corps, leading them in a chant: “More kids, in school, and on track to succeed!”
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn shared his support for City Year and the impact he believes our service has on the community. Comcast sponsor and City Year board member, Steve Holmes, also shared his gratitude for the incoming corps, stating that the work of City Year is “changing the forecast for a generation to one of hope.” Another highlight from the event’s program was Jessica Silye, a City Year alumna, who shared the stage with a former student she worked with, Sam Martin. Together they described how both of their lives were profoundly impacted by their experiences together and the work of City Year.
The keynote address came from corps member and recent graduate of Garfield High School, Mohamed Adan, who inspired the crowd with his life story and passion for service. After fleeing chaos and violence in Somalia, Adan’s family sought refuge in Kenya and eventually was granted political asylum in the United States. Adan entered Seattle’s public school system at six years old and found in the years to follow that the new language and culture created great barriers against his academic success. While recalling teachers suggesting to his class that they ask their parents for homework help, Adan said with a grin, “my parents didn’t speak a lick of English and attempting to solicit their help on my homework would have resulted in blank stares or a whole lot of head scratching.” Though his teachers were supportive and dedicated, they did not have the resources to provide the individualized support necessary to foster each student.
Adan reminisced about the people in his life who believed in him, helped him overcome the setbacks he encountered, and ensured his success. People in his school and community “who dedicated themselves to education. Who believed in the potential of every student to succeed, and who worked hard in difficult situations and with limited resources because they knew the tremendous impact education could have upon their students.”
The community support, words of encouragement, and palpable enthusiasm of Adan reminded the corps, and each member of the audience, of the vital importance of the mission they are embarking upon. We can’t wait to see the impact that each of our 67 corps members makes this year!
*To see more photos from Opening Day, click here.