Combining forces to make an impact
Guest Blog

Kate Naranjo, City Year

An organization that puts faith in a 23-year-old to plan a day of service for 60 volunteers is special.  An organization that truly believes in young people and that is dedicated to changing lives across classes, ages, and races is even more special.  City Year is this organization and it gives me the privilege to serve my country every day.  It has developed me personally and professionally.  

City Year gave me the unique opportunity to plan a day of service and to partner with United Way and the Developmental Disabilities Services Organization.  We combined our forces to make an impact.

Right out of college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life.  I knew I believed that education was the way to solve many of the inequities I saw, but also that I couldn’t make large-scale change until I had my boots on the ground.  I applied to City Year Boston and started in the Fall of 2011 as a full time corps member.  I served more than 1900 hours in 10 months.  I helped students grow, develop, and take ownership over their work – and in turn, the same happened to me.   I worked with students like Jorge*, who started the year getting removed from class because he kept threatening to punch a teacher.  He ended the year working for hours at a time with me, raising one of his grades from an F to a B-. 

I returned to City Year for a second Americorps year.  My desire is to guide other people who had this same determination to change the world through their year of service.  This is the first full year of City Year in Sacramento, and I am lucky to be at Rosa Parks Middle School coaching 12 corps members to create the biggest impact on their students possible. 

Another part of my unique role as a team leader this year is that I help lead corps activities.  One of these opportunities was planning November 19 – a day when students were out of school, but we wanted to do meaningful service.  Through our partnership with United Way, we engaged 20 people in a morning of service at the Developmental Disabilities Services Organization. 

We painted three classrooms soothing colors for their clients, organized bathrooms, and spruced up doors to help prepare their new office. 
The hardest part about working with our students is that we often do not see the change we’ve made in them.  Often, it takes years for the lessons they learn from a positive role model to really sink in. This volunteer opportunity allowed us to make a tangible difference in the community with results we could see that day.  

It helped remind me that service comes in a variety of packages, but ultimately means one thing: working to make others’ lives, and this world, a better place.