City Year

Life Update — Again

I knew it had been awhile since I have posted, but when I got on and saw that it had almost been a month, I wanted to cry! (Well, not really, but I was pretty bummed).

I haven’t been ignoring this blog because I don’t want to update… I’ve just been hella busy. Mostly all good stuff though. Thought I’d update you on some upcoming things I’m working on that I’m pretty excited about:


The things I’m having to do at work are all fairly far out, but they take a lot of planning and preparation, so they’re definitely on my brain.

National Leadership Summit: Haven’t really been doing too, too much with this yet because a lot of the work I need to do is contingent on other things happening first. However, I will be in Washington, D.C. May 14-16 for the event and I’m super excited that I will finally get to hear Arne Duncan speak live in person. Just need to figure out the web/social strategy for all of this (which I love doing because I’m a nerd).

Summer Academy: This isn’t happening until mid-July, but boy is there a lot to be done. This year I am excited because I have the opportunity to be on the Summer Academy team, which will give me the chance to get an inside experience on how Summer Academy happens. I am also rolling out the social media policy I spent months writing and am charged with designing and presenting training on that and some other stuff TBD.

City Year Boston Engagement: I was recently asked to meet with a group of corps members to train them on personal branding and how they can be better brand ambassadors for City Year. I always really love having the opportunity to meet with corps members and share my knowledge (recently participated in City Year Boston’s 18 Minute Networking Event which was a real pleasure for me). I’m meeting with this team in a few weeks, so I’m excited to develop the training and have great conversations around social media and how it can impact their futures in a positive way.


Persuasion Analysis: For my final paper for my Persuasion course, I am doing a persuasive analysis on Voices for National Service and its efforts to raise awareness of national service programs and to also protect (and grow) funding for CNCS. This is something I have become really passionate about since I started working at City Year HQ, and is something I am really lucky to have been able to explore on a deeper level in my graduate studies.

Communication Research: Right now I’m working on developing a survey for City Year that will be sent out to all of the Recruitment staff across the country with the hopes that it will guide our content creation and delivery for Summer Academy. This is the first time a pre-survey like this has gone out, and I’m excited to see the impact it could have. I also need to write a pre-proposal for what I want to do my capstone on. I still need to do some thinking around this, but as mentioned in my previous blog post, social media and its impact on activism is something I am really, really intrigued with. It’s definitely on the table.


Soccer: Per one of my New Year’s resolutions, I have signed up to play on a co-ed indoor soccer team and it has really been an awesome experience. I really like all of the people on my team and we only have one loss (a forfeit) so winning has also been great! We have the playoffs at the end of the month and I’m excited to see how that goes!

Visit Home: Next weekend I am going home to Rochester for the 10 Year Anniversary of the Cardinal Courier, the college newspaper that I was a part of. As part of this trip home, I’m meeting with the Career Services and Service Learning Directors to discuss how Fisher and City Year could potentially partner to recruit students to serve. I am also sitting on a career panel to talk about my career path and how the skills I gained at Fisher (specifically on the Courier) have helped to get me where I am today. Another integral part of that weekend is that I am thrilled to be able to see Doc Seward, one of my favorite professors, be inducted into the Jack Palvino Hall of Fame. He is such a great guy and I was bummed when I had to miss his Last Lecture Series, so I’m thankful I get to support him in this.

Memphis: In a few weeks I am going to go visit my cousin Dominique and the rest of the family in Memphis. Last time I went down it was pretty much a nightmare (she had gotten into a terrible accident) so this time I’m excited to actually get to hang out and have a good time. Plus, it’s the Beale Street Music Fest that weekend so I’m hoping to hit that up a bit. Would love to see Grace Potter again!

Alright, sorry that got a little longwinded, but there you have it. Apologies if I don’t do much posting over the next couple months, but as you can see… there’s some good reasons for that.

2011 Year in Review: November

I gotta tell you. Doing this whole year in review has been so cathartic for me. There have been so many moments in my life over this past year where I felt overwhelmed, sad and at times, depressed. But taking a look back at all of the great things that happened in 2011 has made me realize that despite all of the negativity and challenges I dealt with, it was a pretty good year.

Thank you to all of the people who made it that way. I couldn’t have gotten through it without you.

Anyways, here’s November…

It Gets Better Project

I worked with Jeff, a senior corps member in Washington, DC to produce an It Gets Better Project video on behalf of City Year. I think this was one of the most important projects I have had the pleasure of working on, and I was pretty thrilled with the results. Unfortunately there is some weird animation in here that happened when I uploaded it to Youtube and selected the stabilize option, but the overall message is what is most important.

#SaveAmeriCorps in Washington, DC

I had the opportunity to travel down to Washington, DC to help ServeNext and AmeriCorps Alums with an AmeriCorps rally on Capitol Hill. I helped them design their social media strategy, shot photos and edited a video. It was a really great experience for me professionally, and it felt really amazing to be down on Capitol Hill rallying for something I really care about.

A special thanks to Bill Kuchman for letting me crash at his place for the duration of the trip (and for being a really great tour guide). I had the opportunity to see a couple friends: Meli, my roommate from my first year of City Year and Leigh, my best friend from kindergarten and a good friend all throughout high school. I think my favorite part of the trip was getting to go to the Newseum. I know, I’m a nerd. But it was really awesome and is totally worth paying to get into. I highly recommend it!

Thanksgiving in NYC

This year for Thanksgiving, I went to NYC where my best friend Lauren lives. We failed to make it to the parade, but had a really nice walk around Central Park, had a pretty hilarious dinner with her grandmother and aunt (which included Boris and Natasha’s doppelgangers asking to move away from our drunk, obnoxious selves) and hung out with a photographer and his fiance and awesome dog in his studio loft afterwards. I also got to see Tori, a corps member who I served with my first year in San Jose, which was really awesome!

Our mothers also made the drive out to NYC to spend the weekend with us, which was really awesome. My favorite moment of the weekend was when we visited the 9/11 Memorial. Lauren’s aunt is the facilities manager of the memorial, so she told us a lot of really interesting factoids about the memorial. If you get a chance to make it out there, go at night. It’s absolutely breathtaking.

Other Stuff:

  • Harvest Fest Beer Summit (Essentially a huge beer tasting. It was awesome).
  • Meeting up with Matthew Kelly in Brooklyn, a guy I have been friends with on Twitter for quite some time. Good dude with good taste in beer.
  • Speaking to the Emerson PRSSA about social media
  • Going to Finale, a dessert bar, with Dan

2011 Year in Review: July

Well I barely got any sleep last night because I was surrounded by three large dogs and one little guy. When I woke up at around 3:00 am and realized I had absolutely no blankets and was on the verge of falling of the bed, I felt like I was really finally home. However, I’m pretty sore this morning from having to sleep at a weird angle to accommodate the monsters.

But I digress.

Move to Boston

July 1st I packed up a uhaul and moved to Boston. (Cue the “I think I’ll go to Boston” song). I was really excited to be starting this new phase in my life. Boston was a place I have always been interested in living in, but I had only been there a few times. With a new job and grad school on the horizon, I had a lot to look forward to.

My first weekend there was a lot of fun. My parents were able to move me out there and Katrina’s family was there, too. Her and her mom threw a bbq so I could meet Katrina’s friends, which was really great. It was really nice to walk into a roommate situation where she already had a social network of cool friends for me to get to know. It was also 4th of July weekend, which was an absolute blast.

Friends Visiting

Now that I lived a lot closer to upstate NY, it is a lot easier for friends to come stay with me. My second weekend in Boston, I had Andy, Erica and Rachel come up and it was a lot of fun. We did a lot of drinking and basically just did touristy stuff around Boston since I didn’t know the area all that well yet. (In fact, Andy ended up playing tour guide for the majority of the visit).

The next week, Nick came up to visit (I know he was really there to see Maria, but I’m sure he already missed me too, haha).

City Year Summer Academy

Summer Academy is always a really long week, but it was an exciting time for me because it was my first major City Year event where I was totally in control of City Year’s social media (with Elliot of course). We helped facilitate a social media training with Mike Messina, my mentor who was leaving City Year that week. It was the first time City Year had trained programming staff (people who work in schools) in social media and I was really excited to be a part of it.

It was also really great to be able to see everyone from San Jose and people from other sites that I had met in the past. I think the best part about Academy is just being in the same place as all of the people who are working just as hard as you are towards the same mission. Pretty cool.

Other stuff:

  • Chowdafest with Katrina and her Mom
  • The World Cup (damn that heartbreaking loss)
  • Carson Beach with Dan and Katrina
  • Museum of Fine Art with Dan to see the Chihuly Exhibit
  • Flaming Lips concert

2011 Year in Review: May

As much as April sucked, May ruled. It was a great month for me professionally and socially, and I didn’t really have to worry too much about my future anymore. I knew that I was moving to Boston for grad school and while the job thing wasn’t quite figured out, I just had to have faith that my hard work would pay off in the end.

Here are the highlights:

City Year’s National Leadership Summit

I was a last minute addition to the NLS team, which meant I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to help put on a major City Year event in which we brought together representatives from all of the sites to meet to engage their congressmen on Capitol Hill and to gather to discuss the drop out crisis.

It was a big event for me because the social media strategy at the national level was placed in my hands. I was there to support Johnny Barr (one of my favorite people in City Year) to implement it. It was really exciting to video edit, blog and tweet on the fly. It was probably one of the most challenging and exciting experiences I had as a corps member, and it was one that really put me on the path to where I am today. I’m so grateful to the NLS team for bringing me on.


I went on two really incredible hikes this month. The first was to Wilder Ranch State Park which was a really easy hike, but the views were breathtaking. One of the coolest things I did when I was living in California for sure.

The second hike I went on was at Big Basin. It was a really strenuous hike and took Molly and I quite awhile to finish it, but it is definitely one of my favorite trails. It was my second time doing it and I’m glad I had the chance to do it one more time before I left the west coast.

The month of May culminated into quite possibly one of the most fun weekends of my entire life. My friend Molly and I went hiking and went to Russian River Brewing Co. and the Lagunitas Brewing Co. Circus. There are fewer things I have grown to love more than hiking and beer, plus tack on the wonderful company of Molly Wilmoth and there’s no way it was going to be anything but amazing.

Other Highlights:
Going to Sea Bright Brewery for dinner and drinks and then to this really amazing spot on the beach in Santa Cruz to watch the sun set with Mathson teachers.
Spending the day in Half Moon Bay and having lunch at the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company (best fish tacos EVER!)

Making of It Gets Better

It Gets Better.

That is the name of the project that was started by Dan Savage in response to a tragic string of teenage suicides who felt they could no longer take the torment that they had to face everyday due to their sexuality.

I’ve always had a lot of respect for this project. The concept is simple: have people upload videos to share their words of support and encouragement for young people who may be considering taking their own life. Tell them that even though it seems impossible now, that the world is a big place and they have an amazing life ahead of them that is worth living.

About seven months ago as I was sitting in the lobby of a conference center at the City Year National Leadership Summit, I overheard a corps member named Jeffrey Cooke talking to one of our high up directors in the organization about getting City Year involved in this project.

While I didn’t say anything to him at the time, the second he walked away I turned to the director and told her that I knew the project that he was talking about and that he was absolutely right. This was something we needed to show our solidarity for. She agreed, but we didn’t say much about it besides that.

I had sort of forgotten about it until Summer Academy of this year.

At the beginning of our first general assembly, we have a senior corps member from each site carry in the flag that represents their city. Once they all enter, each of them shares a statement about why they serve. I recognized Jeffrey right away and I couldn’t wait to hear what he had to say about why he has committed himself to service.

At the very end of his statement, he said “It Gets Better.”

After hearing that, I knew that getting us involved in the It Gets Better Project was something that I absolutely had to make happen.

A couple months ago, Charlie Rose (VP and Dean of City Year) approached me and said that Jeffrey had brought the project to his attention again and that he was in support of it. I asked to be e-introduced to Jeffrey, and the rest was history.

After weeks of phone calls and e-mails with each other and meetings with folks, we were given the go ahead to ask the organization to submit their videos. The outpouring of support was immediate.

Corps members and staff from all across the country e-mailed Jeffrey and I to tell us how much this project meant to them and that they were thrilled to know that our highest levels of leadership were on board. Social media managers got out their cameras and arranged interviews with folks who wanted to participate.

From the very first submissions I received, I knew that this was going to be something special. As the buzz began to float around headquarters, the interest from senior leadership to appear in the video grew. Ultimately, I ended up being able to include messages from our Vice President and Dean Charlie Rose, our COO Sean Holleran and our CEO Michael Brown.

Having their voices legitimized everything Jeffrey and I had been working towards. We wanted to show that we as an organization are standing behind this, and thanks to them, we achieved that.

While I do not identify as LGBTQ, this video meant a great deal to me. Some of my closest friends and most valued mentors are of the LGBTQ community and I could not imagine where I’d be if it weren’t for them.

I wanted to make this video to not only show support for children who are suffering, but to thank the people in my life who not only survived the bullying, but changed my life just by being a part of it.

I hope you enjoy the video and that you share it. We need our youth to know that we are there for them, and if this video can give even one child a glimmer of hope, then it was worth every second I spent working on it.

Thanks for everything, @Michael_Messina

Sometimes you meet a person who makes a difference in your life. They teach you a valuable lesson, show you a new way of thinking or simply are there for you when you need them most.

Even more rare is when you meet someone who completely changes the trajectory of your life’s path. Someone who shows you what you are capable of and does everything that they can to ensure that you fulfill your life’s mission.

@Michael_Messina is one of those people for me.

I originally “met” Mike via Twitter when I was a first year corps member serving with @CityYearSanJose (a Twitter handle that didn’t exist until he prodded the leadership at my site to give @RomelAntoine and I the go ahead).

He continued to loop me in on @CityYear social media, both locally in San Jose and at the national level for the next two years, giving me opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible if he hadn’t both trusted and believed in me.

When I started communicating with Mike, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I knew that I wanted to be involved in the non-profit sector in some way, but I had no idea at what capacity.

Thankfully, I had a pioneer of social media as a mentor at my disposal.

Photo by Elliot Haney

Mike is probably one of the only people I know who is as humble (if not more so) than Charlie Rose, Dean of City Year. And if you know Charlie, you know that’s pretty darn modest. So since I know he won’t toot his own horn, I’m going to take it upon myself to do it for him.

Thanks to Mike’s leadership, social media has become a powerful force in how City Year operates. It is a major way that we connect with applicants, current corps members, corporate sponsors, alums and many more. The forums he has created have given a voice to corps members, illuminating the powerful service that so many young Americans provide to some of our nation’s most neediest children.

What some people once saw as “just Twitter” are now recognizing to be a necessity in decreasing the high school drop out rate, which if you don’t know the severity of that issue, here is a staggering statistic:

Every 26 seconds, a student gives up on school in America

I think it would be difficult, maybe even impossible, to count the seconds, hours, and days that Mike has spent mobilizing our organization via Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Tumblr, Flickr and Youtube to help us work towards achieving our mission of fighting this very statistic.

Mike has said a lot recently that his brand will always be connected to City Year. Well, I truly believe that City Year is incredibly lucky to be able to say the same exact thing about him.

As I sit at the helm of the social media community that Mike has created, I can only hope to represent City Year with the poise, authenticity and power that he did.

I know what it feels like to pass something I have worked hard on to someone else, and he has never once made me feel that I am incapable of taking this on.

Sometimes I feel like he has more confidence in me than I have in myself. 

So as I spend this summer working at my dream job and gear up to attend my top choice graduate school this fall, I will do my best to make him proud and hope that one day I can pay this forward.

Now, he’ll probably give me a little grief for making this post too wordy and not having enough multimedia included, but he can’t say that I didn’t say that this post is mine alone and is not representative of City Year or AmeriCorps as organizations.

While this opinion may not be officially representative of the organization, I’m sure I could find a heck of a lot of people within it who would say that Mike taught them something and changed the way that they viewed and used social media, among other things.

So, thanks for everything Mike. Best of luck in everything that you do. And thanks for everything that you have done for me.

Life Update

Pardon the huge lag in posting I’ve done lately. I’ve been incredibly busy and I think this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to actually sit down and breathe in a couple weeks.

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

City Year Graduation

On Wednesday, June 15th I graduated from City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley after two years of service. Graduating this time around felt, well, different. Last year I knew that I would be coming back for a senior corps year but this time it was actually over. But I don’t feel sad about leaving San Jose. While there is a lot I am going to miss, I had an absolutely amazing experience and have taken away so much from my time there.

As Dr. Suess said, “Don’t cry because its over, smile because it happened.” I truly believe that whole heartedly.

Lake Tahoe

After working incredibly hard for 11 months, its only natural to want to celebrate that. And celebrate we did. With the help of my friend Jane, I planned a 3 day vacation in Lake Tahoe for around 40-45 people. We rented a gorgeous eight bedroom house and had a really amazing time.

It was really nice to spend time getting to know people that I hadn’t had the chance to over the year. And of course, Lake Tahoe is absolutely gorgeous, so you can’t go wrong with that.

Train Trip

A few friends and I decided that instead of flying off to our separate destinations, we would stay in vacation mode by taking a train from San Jose, CA all the way to Rochester, NY. It was 72 hours of traveling which may sound daunting, but it was actually a heck of a lot of fun.

We had sleeper cars from LA to Chicago which was great because it was quiet, all of our meals were provided and we had access to showers.

We went from San Jose to Santa Barbara to LA to Chicago and then finally to Rochester. In Chicago we had a six hour layover so we toured around Chicago and even had the chance to stop by the City Year office where the wonderful Johnny Barr gave us a tour and told us more about the service that the Chicago site provides for the schools.

While the ride from Chicago to Rochester was a living nightmare, I would definitely recommend taking the trip for anyone who is even slightly interested. Just be sure to get a sleeper car!


For the past three years, I’ve had a going away/welcome home party called Bakerfest. Its always a really great time for me because I have friends from all over the place come together.

And despite getting iced… twice… it was a great time.

I also got to do some fun stuff with Nick, Dan and Deborah while we were here. We went to Hamlin Beach, grilled out and played bocce at my friend Lauren’s house and went up to Niagara Falls to ride the Maid of the Mist. I’m so glad that they were able to come stay with me for the long weekend and tour around upstate NY. It made life here seem more exciting somehow, and gave me an excuse to be touristy.

Next Steps

As most of you know, I’m moving to Boston today. I’m really excited to start this next chapter in my life. This past week I was formally offered a temporary position at City Year, Inc. as an Online Community Coordinator. I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into social media at City Year both at the local and national level and am incredibly excited to be welcomed onto the team at a full-time capacity for the summer. I start work on Tuesday. Wish me luck!

In September I will be beginning a Master’s program at Emerson College where I will be majoring in Communications Management with a focus on Stakeholder Communication and Public Relations. I’m really thrilled to be back in the academic environment and know that having this educational development will only further my career.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout all of this. My friends in San Jose, my mentors in the City Year network (especially Mike Messina, Kim Brown and Megan O’Leary) and everyone at home who makes it harder and harder for me to move away.

Here’s to the next adventure.