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Reflecting on 10 years with City Year Jacksonville’s Veronika McDougald

As we celebrate a decade of service to the Jacksonville community, it’s impossible to overlook the significant contributions of Veronika McDougald, our site’s Managing Director of Impact. Her unwavering commitment and dedication have been instrumental in shaping City Year Jacksonville into what it is today, and we are proud to have her as part of our team.

Veronika’s journey within City Year Jacksonville is a testament to her dedication and belief in our mission. From a fateful day on the internet, pondering her post-graduation future, to her current role as our Managing Director of Impact, Veronika has seen and experienced everything we have to offer. Her firsthand understanding of the unlimited potential of the City Year program embodies everything that makes City Year great.

Learn more about what you can expect as a City Year AmeriCorps member, serving in schools.

Veronika is still writing her story, but we recently sat down with her to discuss the first few chapters. She shared everything from how she got here and why she stayed to City Year’s relationship with the community and the program’s impact on young people. Her reflections paint a positive outlook for the next ten years of City Year Jacksonville and the future beyond.

How She Got Here: Finding a purpose

Nearing graduation at the University of Georgia, Veronika was unsure of her next step in life. The only thing she was sure of was that she wanted to work with kids. So, she did what so many young people do when pondering their future. She Googled it, and Veronika and City Year found each other.

“If I did not do that Google search,” Veronika recounted, “I don’t know what I’d be.”

Reflecting on Her AmeriCorps Year

City Year is an education organization, fueled by the national service program, AmeriCorps. Across 29 U.S. cities, from Seattle to Chicago to Miami, young people commit a year of their lives to City Year, serving students and preparing them for success in life by enhancing their behavioral, personal,  and academic skills and mindsets.

The impact our AmeriCorps members make on kids in schools is immeasurable. The kids’ impact on our corps is equally huge.

As Veronika says, “My corps year unlocked so much in me. I was able to give to kids, but the kids gave me so much. Their passion is embedded in my life, in my heart, and in my mind. It is what drives everything I do.”

One of the most powerful lessons she learned is how the power of the human spirit can overcome obstacles when everyone ignores their differences and focuses on a common goal.

“You don’t have to come from the same background as other people to have a connection to them,” Veronika reflected. “There were so many diverse people from all corners of the United States, and the bonds we developed serving together are priceless.”

The Cycle of Opportunity

A primary goal of City Year is to foster a cycle of opportunity for the young people of Jacksonville. Our program gives students the self-confidence and courage to become future leaders. Leadership takes on many forms. Our student success coaches work partner with classroom teachers and work tirelessly to maximize the potential of the schoolchildren we are fortunate enough to interact with. We strive to instill the belief that they can achieve anything if they are determined to persevere.

“Not everyone wants to be the next Managing Director of Impact or a teacher, but there is something they want to be,” Veronika observed.

City Year plays a pivotal role in helping kids accomplish their goals. Once they achieve success, they give back to the program and the community, showing the next generation all that is possible.

Looking to the Future

City Year has been active in Jacksonville for 10 years, but we feel like we’re just getting started. There is still so much potential to unlock as we serve the largest school district in the state.

We can’t do it alone. We need great young people who find themselves in the same position Veronika was in during her senior year of college to join our program, and we need great community partners.

“As we go into the next 10 years,” Veronika said, “I hope that the people of the Jacksonville community within schools and companies are able to really understand the opportunity that we have to collaborate and build partnerships that will build that bridge for young people.”

“When I think about the future,” Veronika continued, “that’s what I think about. The community of City Year continuously growing,  not just in the confines of what City Year is as an organization, but the beauty of the connectedness that we have.”

Being a Connector

“We are not here to do work on an island,” Veronika summarized. “I feel so lucky to have found City Year, but it was the people, the connections, and the partnerships that helped me get to where I am today. So, I challenge people to think about being that connector for someone else. What will that do not for just City Year but the community as a whole?”

Are you ready to be a connector? Here are just two of the ways that you can:

First, you can nominate a future leader to serve with City Year and encourage them to make connections that will last a lifetime as they grow and serve the community.

Second, partner with City Year as an individual, corporation, or foundation and help all students thrive as you enable the leaders of tomorrow to impact our communities today.

Watch the interview here

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