City Year gala honors veterans, celebrates the spirit of national service

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SSG Ryan Pitts recieving a standing ovation, with Mayor Joyce Craig and Greg Whalen to his left and right. (Cheryl Senter for City Year)

MANCHESTER, NH  –More than 300 community and business leaders joined together with City Year New Hampshire recently to honor veterans and celebrate the shared value of service to a cause greater than self. Guests of the gala, held at the iconic Wentworth by the Sea Hotel in New Castle, were welcomed by Major General (Ret.) Kenneth Clark, who recognized members of the military in attendance and shared he “believes passionately in military and citizen service,” before introducing an inspiring line up of speakers including Governor Chris Sununu, and Manchester Mayor, Joyce Craig.

“City Year is more than just the corps members matching with younger students. There’s a bigger piece here; a greater good going on,” Gov. Chris Sununu said. “There are such huge, indirect benefits that come from [City Year], whether it’s the support for the teachers, the support they give to the greater Manchester community, or the support they’re giving to other non-profits they’re integrating and working with. City Year isn’t just some stand-alone entity, it really is integrated in to the community, trying to achieve that greater good.”

Mayor Craig shared how City Year makes a difference in Manchester. 

Julie Lavoie, City Year VISTA member receiving an enthusiastic applaud from the crowd. (Cheryl Senter for City Year)

“I am proud to say we have City Year teams in eight elementary schools throughout the city of Manchester. I, along with many others in this room, hope to see City Year expand their services to deliver on a seven-year promise working with students from third grade to tenth grade to ensure students’ success in high school, from the graduation perspective, and beyond,” Craig said.

Featured speaker, Medal of Honor recipient, Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts, moved the crowd with words of honor for those with whom he served and gave their lives in service to our country.

“It didn’t matter what religion you followed, color of your skin, your background, or if you were born here, as long as we were dedicated to the same thing there was nothing that we couldn’t accomplish. And all those other things, it’s not that they didn’t matter, they just made us stronger. Difference doesn’t mean divided,” Pitts said. “I am proud to have the opportunity to come here tonight and recognize that the military doesn’t have the monopoly on service. There are so many types of service from political office, to civilian service, to first-responders, and these young men and women wearing those red jackets.”

Pawn Nitichan, City Year NH Executive Director announced that with a commitment to deepen and expand City Years’ services, the organization recently welcomed five new board members, First Lady Sununu, Barry Brensinger, Mil Duncan, Lew Feldstein, and Mary Heath, to join an already incredible group of leaders on the board. She said to board members in the room “I am so looking forward to work with all of you so that we can do more for our kids.”

Anna Jackson, City Year member ,sharing her musical talent with the crowd. (Cheryl Senter for City Year)

Two City Year members were introduced to the stage by Staff Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts. Julie Lavoie shared that she came back to serve another year because of her students, however her foundation and deep commitment to service came from her parents, in particular her father who is a veteran and has been serving as a police officer  and now Chief of Police for over three decades in Nashua.

Anna Jackson shared that witnessing her students’ transformation into eager learners is one of greatest joys in her life. She also shared, “…one day I hope to combine my passion for music and education. To teach both music and English to English Language Learners.” She concluded her remarks by playing a captivating viola solo for the crowd.

City Year is dedicated to helping students and schools succeed. Diverse teams of City Year AmeriCorps members provide evidence-based student, classroom and school-wide supports to help students stay in school and on track to graduate from high school, ready for college and career success. A 2015 study shows that schools that partner with City Year were up to 2-3 times more likely to improve on math and English assessments. A proud member of the AmeriCorps national service network, City Year is funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service, local school districts, and private philanthropy from corporations, foundations and individuals. Learn more at, City Year’s Facebook page, on Twitter, and LinkedIn.  

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