Segal Leadership Award Spotlight: A City Year Alum’s Story of Community Service
For the #1of1million celebration in October, AmeriCorps Alums is recognizing alums with unique stories to share. This week, we are catching-up with one of the recipients of the AmeriCorps Alums Eli Segal Leadership Award, Bria Price. Bria completed two AmeriCorps terms with City Year and is currently an Impact Manager with City Year in Washington, DC.
Congratulations on winning the AmeriCorps Alums Eli Segal Leadership Award! Out of all your leadership experiences, what’s your proudest moment?
I’d say the proudest moments I have are when I see corps members graduate. Often they think to themselves, “I went into this program to do 1900 hours of service and receive an education award, but I left with meaningful relationships with students that allowed me to grow as a human being.” As an Impact Manager, I now work at a school where I get to see a few students that I worked with two years ago. It makes me proud to see how far they have come, but also that they remember my name and say “I’m glad you’re here too.” Because I was an AmeriCorps member myself, I graduated too, but as a team leader, watching corps members walk across the stage has brought me so much joy, especially knowing how hard they worked in their year of service and what they went through personally.
Please tell us more about your AmeriCorps service. Why did you choose to serve? How has service experience changed your worldview?
I served one cycle as a City Year AmeriCorps member and last year as a Senior AmeriCorps member. I went into the program initially to do a gap year after my undergraduate college experience. I wanted to go on and get my Masters, but I needed to take a break.
I didn’t know until after I graduated college, but a lot of people that I looked up to in college, whether it was a teaching assistant or women in my sorority, did AmeriCorps service through City Year! When I asked about it, they told me that I would be giving back to a community, so I thought it was right up my alley because I love doing service!
What kept me into service, was not what I was doing, but who I was doing it for: the students. I was not just a volunteer. I was “Ms. Bria” who looked out for students in the classroom and had lunch clubs where students asked me questions about life. That kept me going. It was about the impact I was making. I didn’t care about the service hours I was doing. (I wish I could give more service hours in a day!)
I went into City Year for selfish reasons, but ended up giving it every ounce of energy in order to make an impact in the lives of others – that’s what people call service!
I learned you can always be a part of a community no matter where you come from. The hours and commitment that I was able to give taught me how to be a part of the community – not just working there, but living there. I’m originally from Atlanta, Georgia, but I’m proud and unafraid to say that I now live east of the Anacostia River, in Southeast, DC! I will openly have a dialogue about the stereotypes that come up about people who live east of the Anacostia in DC. You typically see the differences in the buildings or infrastructure, but I personally don’t see the differences in the people. People are people on both sides of the river.
What are some of your professional and personal goals? How will being a Segal Fellow help you achieve those goals? What are you looking forward to the most?
For my short-term goal, I’d like to get my Masters in either social or education policy. My long term goal is to build a school where arts, academics, and social events would be the driving force of education. There are many articles about how arts improve educational systems by building the morale, discipline, and pride of the students. It builds all these skills that students need to navigate the world that they live in. Once students have those skills, they will truly have the capacity to do whatever they want.
The arts also teach students that they don’t always have to be the star in the show. There are multiple roles in a production (E.g. the orchestra, ushers, or set designers). The actors will never be seen if there’s no one running the lights. Likewise, there would be nothing to perform on if someone doesn’t have carpentry skills to build the stage.
It [the arts] teaches us that not everyone has to be in the limelight to do something that’s bigger and better than themselves. If we can bottle all of that magic up into the education system, it could be a potential solution to improving test scores. We have to be willing to put forth the effort!
The Alums Segal Award and the Eli J Segal Leadership Program will help me achieve these goals by providing me with a mentor, and I’m especially looking forward to the networking opportunities with the Segal Program. There have been a lot of amazing people and stories that I’ve heard from other Segal alums who have communicated with me so far!
AmeriCorps Alums has launched a Race & Equity initiative, in partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in order to reduce racial disparities where we work and serve. What does equity mean to you? Why are these strategies important in National Service?
It’s important because you shouldn’t label communities. You never know where you’re going to work or serve, or who you’re painting a mural for, or providing resources for…and that’s OK.
When you think about equity and diversity, you’re thinking about other people you can reach out to that may not have the same racial identity, ethnicity, or social status. It allows you to reflect on the person you are and how you navigate in the world. Once you figure that out, you consider how that person works completely opposite from yourself and if you’re able to work together. You never know! That’s extremely important to me. I think AmeriCorps has done a great job with allowing volunteers from different backgrounds to present to and support communities.