Wednesday, May 22, 2013

City Year National Leadership Summit

I'm finally caught up on sleep from maybe the craziest, most action packed three days of this year. Joe, LaKeshia, Jay, Jeff (our new Executive Director) and I spent Monday through Wednesday in Washington, D.C. at City Year's National Leadership Summit.  The Summit brings together City Year champions, staff and corps members from across the country (and South Africa and the U.K.) for three days of programs centered around the dropout crisis and City Year's long term impact plan.  We had three of our board members with us, as well as our new Executive Director, our Start-Up Director, and LaKeshia, Joe and I.

LaKeshia picked us up at 8:00 on Monday morning and caught our flight at 10:00 in order to land in DC by noon.  The first part of the Summit started at four when Joe and I circled with all of the other corps members representing their sites.  It's always really cool to be with corps members from other sites and hear about what service is like in other places.  Afterwards, we headed to the Howard Theater where the night's festivities were going to take place.  When we got there, the theater had tables set up and assigned by site.  The theme for the night was "I Believe" and on each table there were pyramids with "I Believe" statements submitted by each corps member in attendance (including me).
"I believe that City Year gave me the opportunity to believe in myself and realize my own potential, the same thing I hope to give my students." -my "I Believe" statement

"I believe that the students I work with have had as profound an impact on me as I have had on them." -Joe Stafford

That night was a ton of fun.  Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, spoke about his long term plan for education in America, which is almost identical to City Year's.  There was also a performance by a high school chorus that was from one of the high schools that City Year serves in Columbus.  They were awesome.  They were by far the best part of the night.  They did a finale with a guy who was on the Voice, which was pretty cool.  As they were leaving, this one kid was taking selfies on the stage holding the rest of the chorus up.  It was so funny and so typical of high schoolers. It definitely had us laughing. After we got back to the hotel, Joe and I met up with a bunch of the other corps members at  a bar down the street.  All of staff was at the hotel bar, so we figured it'd probably be best to go somewhere else :)   Whenever corps members from all over get together, it's always wild.  Like I said, it's fun to hear about other people's service, plus, I got to reunited with a girl I served with in Boston who's now in Sacramento, which was awesome.

Tuesday, we were up early for breakfast before meeting the rest of our delegation.  There was a morning presentation with speeches from Michael Brown, the national CEO of City Year, Jim Balfanz, City Year's president, and the superintendent from Miami.  Michael Brown is always an awesome speaker and he obviously knows more than anyone on City Year.  The star of the show, though, was the superintendent from Miami.  He has turned that school system around and is one of City Year's biggest supporters.  He might have been my favorite part of the whole trip.  He was just so knowledgeable about everything and you could tell he didn't mess around.  He spoke about how there were many underperforming teachers when he came in within the first three months or so of being superintendent, he had not renewed 6,000 teacher contracts.  He means business.  At lunch, there was a panel of speakers from across the country and our superintendent, Dr. Vitti (love him!) was on the panel.  The New Site Development team also announced that we had been approved to officially be a site at the board meeting, so Joe ran in waving a huge CY Jacksonville flag.  Even though we have been in school all year, this was just a pilot year and next year it will be official.  All of our hard work has paid off.

Tuesday night, the corps members were given a guided tour around DC to see all of the monuments.  I absolutely love DC (well any major city actually), but to see the monuments at night is unreal.  They glow. It's awesome.  It was fun just to hang out with the corps members and be outside for the night. Then, of course, we all went out.  I was exhausted though and didn't last very long, but it was still a ton of fun. I met corps members who were from the U.K.  They are starting a site in Birmingham and were fascinated with start up. I was fascinated with their accents! hahah. So fun!

Wednesday, we were hitting the hill.  We had appointments with congressmen from our district in the morning and in the afternoon to tell them about City Year and get them to promote and vote for national service. We stopped by Marco Rubio's office to see if he was there, but he wasn't so we spoke to one of his representatives.  We had appointments with Corrine Brown (who lives right up Main Street from me!) and Bill Nelson.  Neither really had time to speak, but I did get to give my testimonial to Corrine Brown. I spoke about my little one who has made a ton of improvement this year after working with her. Michael Brown, the CEO, came with us, which was really cool. It was also really cool to hear him speak about City Year because he is so articulate and knowledgeable about it all. It definitely gave me some pointers for the next time I have to explain what City Year does.  I was able to talk about my student who I work with who has doubled her reading comprehension score and the relationship we have (funny side note: about the same time I was bragging about her to congressmen, she was getting a referral for shouting the F-word. Awesome.).  It was just an incredible experience being able to see above the ground level and actually lobby for something I'm really passionate about.

We left the hill around three thirty and headed back to the hotel to get our stuff and head to the airport.   We got to the airport really early, but it was fine.  I was so tired that I was barely able to keep my eyes open.  I slept almost the whole way home.  Overall, it was such an awesome experience. I really appreciated the fact that I got to go and be a part of it.  Getting to hear from people like superintendents and mayors was an extremely unique experience.  I wish that everyone could have come to the summit.

Joe and I looking great and making better happen.

Joe waving the flag after the announcement that Jacksonville is officially a site!

From Virginia Beach to JMU to City Year!

Boston Reunion