Jordan Kulbarsh, City Year Story of Impact
In the spring of 2019, I was a soon to be graduate of Ohio State University with too much ambition and too little direction. While I was in the midst of the law school application process, I knew that I would be taking a year off from school but I had no idea of what that time would entail. How I stumbled upon City Year, I am not exactly sure, but from the moment I interviewed with the kind and intentional La’Rez Wilson, I knew that the City Year experience was for me.
Fast forward to August of 2019, and 60 of us were beginning the 2019-2020 service year in Columbus. Fast forward to mid-August of 2019, and 12 of us learned we would be serving at South High School. Fast forward to September of 2019, and I learned that I would be serving in Mrs. Pardi’s eighth grade English-Language Arts class.
From working with smart, creative, and strong students, to working with collaborative and idealistic corps members, I enjoyed my time as a City Year more than I ever thought I could. While I was never the best educator, I truly believe that I was able to help some of my students academically, and even more of them emotionally. From organizing a community resource fair at South High that brought dozens of partners in from across the community, to reading books about zombies on the Titanic with my students, I hope that I was able to make an impact at South High.
Even though, our service year was cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the time I spent at South High was a time I will never forget and it has shaped my perspective on the way I look at many things.
My City Year experience led me to pursue activities in law school that had a social justice lens. For one, my City Year experience led me to participate in a nonprofit housed at the Moritz College of Law called the Divided Community Project. “DCP,” as it was called, was an organization composed of professionals dedicated to using dispute resolution techniques to address divisive issues when they arise in our communities. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to work as a legal extern in the Office of the General Counsel at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. While I know I was only a minute brush stroke in the massive painting that was Nationwide Children’s, I was grateful to be using the legal system to help the children in the same neighborhood as where I had served. And finally, my law school experience would not have been the same without my year serving as Executive Editor of the Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution. In my year helping to run the journal, I helped publish a collaborative symposium series called “Rethinking Systems Design for Racial Justice and Equity” that brought professionals together from the Moritz College of Law, Harvard, and Stanford. These were all incredibly rewarding experiences that were informative yet understandable due to my time as a City Year.
As I now begin my practice as a lawyer, I hope to take the lessons I learned from my time as a City Year and apply them in the real world. With that said, I am grateful to be working at Vorys, Sater, Seymur & Pease LLP, a law firm that is incredibly ingrained into the Columbus community, and a firm that is intentional about giving back and making it a better place for all.
Altogether, City Year shaped how I view education, how I view the law, and how I view my community. It has made me more intentional about learning root causes of issues as well giving back to my community. My service year has been a talking point with many of the new people I meet, and it will continue to be a memory to reminisce on with my fellow corps members for years to come. While I can only hope that I made a difference at South High during my year of service, I know for a fact that my fellow corps members and my students made an impact on me.
As a final note, I wanted to say a line from “Sand Into Diamonds,” the founding story my team leader chose for my peers and I on the very first day of our service year:
“As she thought back to the words of the genie, a smile crossed her face. ‘In the end you will be both happy and sad.’ Yes she was happy. She had survived. And she had a handful of diamonds. Yet she was sad, because she had not picked up more sand along the way.”
While I am grateful for all that I learned during my service year, my only regret is not embracing even more struggles and setbacks along the way so that they too could turn into a treasure trove of wisdom, ideas, and experiences to draw upon later down the road.
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