Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Training, day one (lots of words in this post)

The first day of City Year is in the books. Herein follow some initial thoughts.

One thing you notice right away about CY is how pervasive the organizational culture is. There's a whole lingo of acronyms and slang that we're expected to learn by the time we begin service in earnest. And then there's the chants and rituals...but more on that later.

Day one of orientation and training began in an auditorium on the Lower East Side. After being divided into temporary teams (everyone switches around weekly during training), we were all treated to several lectures and videos on the CY philosophy, and asked to write down our reasons for serving on an index card. We were told that these will eventually wallpaper part of the main CYNY office.

We got our first concrete discussion of the uniform. The basic CY uniform consists of a red jacket with CITY YEAR across the back, a white logo t-shirt, khaki pants, and work boots. All of this is donated by Timberland and Aramark, so it's quality stuff. The catch is that CY seems to be very strict about their uniform code. The list of potential violations is over a page long. God help you if you wear the wrong color undershirt. Still, it's not hard to see why they take the uniform so seriously. CY has developed a reputation for professionalism, and they're clearly very concerned about maintaining it. We don't get our own until training is over, but once I get mine I'll post a picture.

There was also quite a bit of talk about the code of conduct for corps members (that's us). Most of it is common sense - don't drink while wearing a uniform - but there's one regulation that's going to be a tough one. No jaywalking is permitted while wearing the uniform. As anyone who has been to New York knows, pedestrian traffic signals are essentially meaningless. I don't dispute the necessity of the rule (we have to keep kids safe and be role models) but it's going to be a tough habit to break. I already screwed it up twice today.

After the auditorium sessions, we headed up to Hunts Point to see the neighborhood for the first time. First impressions: obviously a poor place, but doesn't appear to be a war zone. East New York looks worse, in my opinion. We grabbed lunch from Subway, then headed to the community center that serves as the home base for CY operations in the area. It would be another fun afternoon of getting to know our temporary teams, as well as the rest of the corps that would be serving in the Bronx. Nothing like being forced to share embarrassing stories to help a group bond.

It really was a fun day, though. Everyone seems just as excited as I am, and I think personalities are meshing well. I probably won't post as in-depth of an update tomorrow, but if anything really interesting happens I'll put it up here.

Thanks for reading. Day two tomorrow.

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