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My Yellow Jacket Story

Every year, City Year AmeriCorps members in California are given the iconic yellow bomber jacket that they wear every day to service. When I first put this jacket on, it weighed about a pound, maybe. I couldn’t quite tell you to be honest, all I knew was that it was lightweight and easy to wear.

When I wore it to service for the first time, I started filling the pockets with pens and Post It notes that I thought would be handy in the classroom. Then slowly, I started adding some snacks and candies that I could use to convince my students to do lesson plans with me. As my pockets filled with knick knacks, the jacket slowly gained some extra weight. While slightly heavier, it was still lightweight and easy to wear.

About a week or so later, I wore my jacket to a pueblo day where my fellow AmeriCorps members and I dedicated our jackets to different individuals. I took a note card and wrote my dedication to my father who told me, “Maybe if I had a City Year when I was in high school, I would’ve graduated.” I took the note card and placed it in a pouch on the inside of my jacket. Again, my jacket had slowly gained some extra weight, but it still wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.

In the weeks following, I would wear my jacket nearly everyday. I would wear it to class while I helped a student find the circumference of a circle. I wore it to Extended Learning Time where I talked to students about their goals after High School. I wore it during behavioral sessions where students discussed their personal obstacles with me. I hadn’t added anything to the pockets of my jacket, and yet it still seemed to get heavier and heavier.

I wore that same jacket to service days where I helped paint and beautify schools. I wore it to the Alpine Recreation Center where I played with children who weren’t at school during the teacher’s strike. I wore it to the Union Rescue Mission, where I spent a day painting the nails of the women of skid row.

And finally, I wore it on my last day of service at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex, School of Social Justice.

By this point in the year, my jacket had felt so heavy. No longer did my jacket carry just pens and post its and the occasional bag of Hot Cheetos. My jacket carried the memories of playing capture the flag with the children of Alpine. My jacket carried the joy students felt when they saw how their campus had been beautified. My jacket carried the duty I owed to my family and my community to do well for others. My jacket carried the tears I cried when I came home and felt like I could’ve done better for my students. My jacket carried the love and laughter I shared between my amazing City Year team of Cobras.

My jacket carried an entire year’s worth of experience as an AmeriCorps member. It was so heavy that on my last day of service, I struggled so hard to climb up the stairs that would lead me to the top floor of the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex. This was the same location of the beautiful School of Social Justice, the school where I had spent nearly 50 hours a week in and out of classrooms with my students. On my last day, I looked over the balcony and couldn’t help but tear up. My jacket was so heavy. SO darn heavy. And yet I was so hesitant to take it off.

And finally I did.

June 6, 2019 was the last day that I put on my yellow jacket. I put it on one last time for my City Year graduation ceremony. And then at the end of the night, I took it off.

The next morning I woke up and I looked at my closet. At this point, it was almost second nature for me to wake up at six in the morning and put on that yellow jacket, just like I had always done.

But not this time.

This time, I just looked at the yellow jacket hanging in my closet. I felt so light without having to wear it… and almost empty, to be honest. The weight of my yellow jacket had become a part of who I was; it became a piece of my identity.

All those times when I had complained about how heavy my jacket was, I never realized how important that weight was to me. I never realized how much those memories and stories I held in my pockets actually inspired me. And now, as I sit here in my office on the 11th floor of the Fine Arts building at my new job, I can’t help but wonder… what is my purpose? What is my identity? What is my mission?

And I realize…

That even though I may not physically wear my yellow jacket anymore, I will always wear the experience and the memories it gave me. I will always carry the purpose of serving the communities. I will always carry the identity as an advocate for my students. I will always carry the mission of giving back to the global community twice over what it gave to me.

I will always wear the impact of my yellow jacket wherever I go, and for that, I am forever grateful.


Written by: Ariel Rose Reed

Check out the original post here!

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