After I finally came to terms with the fact that I was going to take a gap year after high school, I frantically searched for programs I could be a part of so that my time felt legitimate. That was when I stumbled upon City Year, a program supported by the AmeriCorps.

City Year pays you a stipend while you work in inner-city schools for a year. You spend time in schools with students who are at-risk of not graduating from high school. It sounded like a great idea, so I applied. After two rounds of interviews, I was accepted to the Seattle/King County location (there are 24 locations in the Us and 2 international affiliates). The issue with my plan, though, was that I applied so late in August that I was given 5 days to make my decision and move from Chicago to Seattle. While I was not about to let that stop me, the state of Illinois apparently was. I simply did not have enough time to get the necessary documents and therefore was unable to go. I ended up making separate plans and my life turned out to be okay (even if I was worried it wouldn’t).

A plus for those of you thinking about doing this incredible program: City Year does accept applications on a rolling basis, so hopefully some who are at a crossroads will plan a little better than I did and participate in the program. As someone who didn’t actually participate, I feel like I am unprepared to sell you on it, so I interviewed some people who are a bit more experienced.

Sophia, “chose [to participate in] City Year because it’s a good way to gain life experience and spend time trying to better communities.” She was very excited to make the move all the way from LA to New York City. She liked that the job kept her busy and she thought that the rewards felt just that much more amazing. However, it was hard work. She had to wake up at 5:15 AM and wouldn’t get back home until 7 PM. She also says that the students and administration were not always respectful of her. In the future, she plans to join the Peace Corps, and she thinks that her time spent with City Year helped her prepare for that. While she says she loved City Year, it was the hardest year of her life. She warns people going into the program that is is a VERY hard program. “Prepare for the worst,” she says.

Katherine, “chose City Year [because she] was graduating from college, and [she] wanted to do something worthwhile while [she] figured out what [she] wanted to do with [her] life”. She also moved across the country and she was nervous but excited. City Year helped her to decide what she wanted to do and in 2 months she is serving with the Peace Corps in Madagascar. She suggests that if you’re thinking about applying, do it. She says to always be flexible and open minded because not everything will always go your way.

Overall, City Year is a fabulous organization to check out if you’re looking for personal and professional growth in one experience! Just make sure you have the time (and paperwork) to do it.

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