Edwin Famous, City Year Boston
“Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s London-based Global Transaction Services team may seem a long way from the schools of inner-city Boston, Massachusetts, but they’re both part of my story. Twenty years ago, long before I joined the bank, I was a full-time volunteer with City Year in Boston”.
“I was one of these volunteers, working with kids as young as seven who came from disadvantaged backgrounds in Boston. These were youngsters with tremendous potential, who just needed that extra bit of help to enjoy, succeed and stay in school. They needed someone who understood the challenges they were facing. I was part of a team that developed a curriculum for youngsters of different ages, teaching them about HIV and AIDS. It’s a difficult subject to explain, but this was the reality confronting the lives my students were leading. Many of them were recent emigrants to the U.S., in my group were several non-English speaking students from Puerto Rico and other Spanish-speaking countries, so we translated the HIV/AIDS curriculum into Spanish to ensure all students were included. City Year also placed me with charities like the Fenway Clinic, and the Boston Living Centre, a place which supports LGBT people living with HIV and AIDS, specifically helping lonely, isolated patients within the community.
“Now that I work at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London, I’m extremely proud to continue my support of the charity, through the Global Transaction Services team’s partnership with them. You learn so much about yourself and about sharing something with others that will ultimately serve you wherever you are. My own time at City Year taught me how to connect and build relationships with people from very different backgrounds, and with varied experiences and personalities. I learned how to build an effective and strong team that could come together, learn from each other and achieve our goals – these are social skills that can’t necessarily be taught in the classroom.
“In fact, I think that I learned as much from my work with the youngsters in Boston as they did from me – skills such as what it takes to be a good leader – not just assertiveness, decisiveness and insight – but more importantly compassion, perspective and determination. The kids I was working with had to contend with a lot in their own lives, so I had to show an understanding of that to get the best out of them. I learned how important it is for leaders to appreciate the strengths and circumstances of everybody in the team, and determine how their talents best fit together. Moreover giving credit is essential. For the youngsters I worked with in Boston, who came from troubled homes or from communities where people struggled with crime and poor health, to stay in school, to get better and to graduate, were huge achievements.
“My experience serves as a reminder every day that whatever challenges we face, we need determination and unwavering commitment to get through them. So if you’re ready for an eye-opening challenge, think about City Year. It’s a year you’ll never forget, and it will serve you well wherever you go”.