Service as a Solution: A Weekend of Remembrance and Impact
By Brandee McHale, President of the Citi Foundation and Director of Corporate Citizenship, Citi September 13, 2016 05:00 PM
Service has the potential to transform communities and bring people from all walks of life together through a common purpose and a shared goal. This weekend, I saw that potential activated when a new class of ServiceWorks AmeriCorps VISTAs began their work in support of the economic progress of young people as the country remembered those we lost 15 years ago on September 11.
On Saturday, September 10 in New York City, Citi joined volunteer service champion General Stanley McChrystal to help kick off another year of ServiceWorks as part of the Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress initiative. General McChrystal administered the pledge of service to 72 ServiceWorks AmeriCorps VISTAs at the National Opportunity Summit, a convening focused on expanding economic opportunities for youth with an emphasis on making civic engagement opportunities more accessible.
ServiceWorks AmeriCorps VISTAs receive the pledge of service from General (Ret) Stanley McChrystal at Opportunity Nation’s National Opportunity Summit.
The VISTAs will dedicate one year of their lives to service by teaching young people across the nation the crucial workplace and leadership skills necessary to compete in this economy, while also working to connect them to their communities through service projects that address pressing issues, from homelessness and hunger to violence and bullying. Since launching ServiceWorks in 2014, 7,500 young people across the United States have been impacted by the program. Additionally, Citi employee volunteers have also supported ServiceWorks in a variety of roles, from participating in youth-led, AmeriCorps-VISTA-supervised service projects to more intensive mentoring and skills training sessions with youth participants.
After meeting members of this new class of VISTAs, it was clear that the decision to dedicate time to advance economic and social progress by giving back is a personal and powerful one. Each person has a unique story and their motivations are as varied as their backgrounds. Take, for example, Alonzo Warren, who is entering his third year as a ServiceWorks AmeriCorps VISTA.
“I have a lot invested in my community and I want to do everything I can to make it better and see positive returns,” said Warren. “When I work with the young people in South Central Los Angeles I see myself in them and I want to make sure they know there are people out there rooting for their success.”
Third year ServiceWorks VISTA Alonzo Warren, center left in blue polo shirt, joined Ed Skyler, EVP of Global Public Affairs at Citi, and the founders of the 9/11 Day of Service to ring the opening bell at the NYSE on Friday, September 9th.
For another VISTA, Cris Houston, her commitment to service has taken her from the courtroom to the streets of her hometown of Houston, Texas. The Harvard Law School-educated first-time VISTA joined ServiceWorks to help end generational cycles of poverty by helping local youth access the resources they need to improve their chances in life and reach their full potential.
“I’m all in,” Houston told me. “This is an opportunity for me to make a positive impact in the lives of young people. “You can always make money, but you don’t have forever to make a difference. It’s time for me to give.
ServiceWorks AmeriCorps VISTA Cris Houston at the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance
On Sunday, September 11th, the newly sworn-in VISTAs got right down to work alongside 300 Citi volunteers by leading their first service project in New York City as part of the annual September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance, designed to honor the victims and heroes of 9/11. Volunteers helped prepare 500,000 meals for those in need across the five boroughs of Manhattan.
On September 11th, 2001, Citi employee Priya Tamosaitis was downtown and on her way to work at the World Financial Center when the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. After hiding in a drug store bathroom for a few minutes, Priya exited onto the street and, listening to the voice in her head, immediately made her way back to Queens.
“I’ll always remember 9/11 and my friends who lost their lives in the towers,” Tamosaitis said. “9/11 was the most dramatic event in my life and I am grateful to be alive. It’s hard to forget 9/11 when you’ve been part of it, but volunteering today reminds me that New Yorkers always rally together when a tragedy occurs. Citi is a wonderful place to work and I’m grateful that the company offers employees like me so many great opportunities to give back to community.”
Priya Tamosaitis, SVP Citi Tax, left, and friends at the 9/11 Annual Day of Service & Remembrance
Over a weekend devoted to giving back, it became increasingly apparent that volunteer service doesn’t just serve one purpose – it can position young people for future success, strengthen communities and help all of us heal. For me, it did all of this and more. It was an inspiration to see all that so many people have accomplished to help empower and transform lives through a unified commitment to remembrance and service. Together we are creating positive change in our communities that will strengthen our common future.
Click here to learn more about Citi’s continued support of 9/11