By: Sarai Veronique Exil
Last year, I entered Opening Day with hesitation and doubt. In a room full of mirrors, the entire site sat in a strong circle and dedicated our jackets to our fathers and mothers, mentors and coaches, past and current students. My words trembling in my mouth, I remember looking at the reflection before me. A young woman with a tear stained face in a room full of red jackets enclosing idealists ready for a national service movement. I remember wishing I had a box of tissues because the whole ceremony was a blur of laughter, tears, inspiration, after inspiration, and more tears, to the point where my own soul threatened to come out of my chest and sing songs about idealism and change. In formation with our right hands lifted, my fellow Corps Members and I vowed to give a year of service during Opening Day 2011. I remember walking away from the ceremony full of glee, naïve to the hard road ahead.
Today, I enter this ceremony with the eagerness of a child. I’m impatient to hear the dedications of my new Corps and staff. I’m ready to say the City Year Pledge with my new Team and excited to smile alongside my fellow Senior Corps Members.
Today, I enter this process with perspective. On the balcony, I can see the beginning line, but I can also see the winding road and the distant finish line. The air is different up here. Although I have experienced Opening Day before, it feels just as powerful as ever. I wonder if I’ll recognize the young woman in the mirror this year. Will panther pride radiate from her skin? Will her words not shake a mountain, but move it? Will her eyes show the wisdom of her journey? Will she stand like a leader ready to learn and follow? And will her red jacket shine with the promises of her heart?
A new journey a waits, one that will be long and tiresome, but I’m a little more prepared this time.
This year I brought a box of tissues.