Key Note Speaker Address to the Graduating City Year New York Corps of 2011

To the graduating CYNY corps of 2011

I just want to say- thank you.

For those of you whom do not know me- my name is Michael M. Soldati and this year I had the great honor of serving on the PS 13 team the one and only A-TEAM! (A-GAME) in East New York, Where Brooklyn at? (Where Queens at?)

I am not native to New York. I was raised in a small city in south east New Hampshire called Somersworth, where my grandfather and his brothers went to school before going on to serve in World War II. By the time I attended the local public high school of my grandfather things had fallen apart, and the school had become notorious for holding the title of New Hampshire’s #1 Dropout school. A ray of hope appeared on the horizon for Somersworth, in the fall of my Freshmen year 2000, City Year began working in our local Elementary schools. I on the other hand headed down a different path and after running away from home ended up in Bath, ME at the Hyde School, or what is more colloquially known as a turn around school. And had myself, eventually, turned around.

I never had a City Year
If I had I’m sure my life would be very different,
I might have got on track much earlier in life. I might have been standing where I am now 7 years ago, graduating on time with a good GPA from my first high school, having been accepted to my first pick college.

But I’m not.

I would like to make one thing clear on that note- this is NOT a complaint.

It is a thank you.

Because now due in part to the work of City Year, New Hampshire in a recent study has been found to be leading the nation in fighting the drop out epidemic. And it started 10 years ago, with the heroes of the City Year New Hampshire Corps working with the children of my very own community to guarantee them all a shot at their dreams, which starts with graduating high school.

I’ve a new home now in Brooklyn and I can tell you that after a year with City Year New York, it is a harsher environment and public education today now a steeper ladder to climb than when I was in public school in New Hampshire.

Which is why it is so important to have heroes in our lives that make a difference and dreams in our hearts to spur us on to new heights.

Heroes like Zishan Jiwani who left a well-paid internship at NPR to get under paid working with kids that aren’t always easy to work with, ask him about the countless service projects, field trips and lessons he planned.

Or dreams like Jamir Dickens has of becoming a hip hop sensation, ask him about killin’ it in our Whole School BBL rap retelling of “The Lorax.”

Dreams like Celia Ricardo had of coming to America to better opportunities that were not always guaranteed her in her homeland of Cuba, ask her about crossing the border.

Heroes like Janice Kodumal who demanded hard work of her students. Ask her about how many of her 4th grade students are now going on to 5th grade at or above reading level because of her work.

Heroes like our Team Leader Sophia Hischak whom brings to mind the first line of our pledge to Americorps “I will get things done for America” and did she ever. Ask her about leading the craziest team of CYNY 2011.

Let us not forget the work also of Jessica Jeffers, Jenetta Angel and Jack Hobbs who round out the A-team, and I’m proud to have brought my a-game on your behalf. Let’s here it one more time.

A-team! (A-game)

But these kind of stories you’ll find at every team. You’ll hear stories about how Amy Furman from the Bronx lead City Year Camps, read blogs about how Naomi Sharp put on one of CYNY’s most successful spelling Bee’s up in East Harlem. How service projects like Be Fit BX, License to Serve, One Harlem and East New York’s Martin Luther King Jr. service day has engaged whole communities. Speeches about the importance of service like those from Tom Mistler from Long Island City still ring in our ears, origami sculptures that Jack Stupinski taught you still in your bag, jokes from Jaime Potter that still make you laugh. These were a collection of gifts brought to this community by all of you, and I can’t name enough names with attachments of such wonderful successes and character and events.
This is why I can only speak of thanks to you all.

This is why I am so sad today.

for those of you who did not know I applied to be a team leader, and was offered the position. However prior to the dream of City Year I had a dream of the theatre which I am hot in pursuit of, and therefore turned down City Year’s offer.

And yet I cannot recall a time in my life where I have faced so much difficulty in a single choice, I cannot recall a time when I have been so saddened in leaving.

I am still not ready to leave City Year, in writing this I know that the only thing that matters, the only thing I can truly write on is family.

And you are my family city year, all 250 Corps members, senior corps and staff, and I cannot speak to how much I will miss you in the coming year.

This has been the most challenging and rewarding experience of my adult life and one that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I hope to come back to City Year in some regards, but for now I know we must part if I am to do my part in modeling for you all and for our children how a hero pursues their dreams.

Therefore-
I just want to say thank you,

on behalf of every student that needed your tolerance, your encouragement, your creativity, your smile, every kid that needed turning around this year, I want to say thank you, because someone turned me around when I was astray, and that has allowed me to become the hero of my own life.

On behalf of every student that got a hug when we were crying, whose hands were held when we needed it, that got a high five, fist bump, secret hand shake, pinky swear, back pat and or a simple wave hello. Thank you

Thank you for putting up with us, the kids that had a few more worries than school, thank you for your patience with us when we didn’t get it, when we still didn’t get it, when we didn’t want to get it. Thank you for your love, and for your belief in us kids and what our dreams could be. Because someone loved and believed in my dreams and had the patience to help me find that out. So on behalf of everyone you’ve ever helped, ever will help I want to say thank you.

Thank you for every thing City Year and the graduating corps of 2011

Thank you.

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