Words Of Wisdom

Every child has the potential to succeed, but many face challenges in the classroom and at home that make it hard for them to stick with school. I created City Year with the vision of harnessing the power and idealism of young people to help change the world. Today, City Year places full-time, trained young adults in schools to provide individual attention to students who need it most – so they can achieve their potential by staying in school and on track to succeed. These young adults serve as tutors, mentors and role models to students in some of the highest-need schools in America.

This year, 2,500 corps members are serving their “City Year” in these schools. It is our largest corps ever, serving in 247 schools, reaching more than 150,000 students every day. These young AmeriCorps members are serving students and schools that are among the most challenged in the nation.

Research shows that struggling students can succeed with the right support at the right time, but teachers and schools don’t always have the time and resources to meet each student’s needs. Research indicates that a major success factor for City Year’s model is that we deploy “near peer” AmeriCorps members – that is, young adults who are close enough in age to related well to students – to fill the gap with a unique, research-driven strategy proven to keep more students in school and on track to succeed.

Wearing their signature red jackets, diverse teams of corps members arrive before the first school bell rings and stay until the last student goes home — helping transform a school’s culture with passion, energy and idealism. They get training and support to help students deal with tough challenges. They know how to spot and respond to critical early warning signs that a student is at risk of dropping out — the “ABCs” of poor Attendance, Behavior and Course performance.

City Year’s AmeriCorps members are there for kids every day, all day, year after year — providing individualized academic and developmental support. When students don’t show up at school, corps members get them to come in. When students fall behind in class, corps members tutor them before, during and after school so they can catch up. Our corps members inspire kids to set high expectations and get them excited about learning. With City Year’s help, struggling schools have the extra people power needed to support the hundreds of students who need extra attention.

By addressing the needs of the whole child, we help transform the whole school. And as “near peers” – all City Year corps members are between 17 and 24 years old – they are positioned to develop a unique bond with the students they serve. With the hands-on support they need to succeed, more students are ready, willing and able to learn – which creates a more positive and productive learning environment for the whole school.

In high poverty schools, a high quality teacher alone cannot provide the entire set of academic and support services needed to ensure that every member of his or her class is on track, or gets back on track.

What’s needed is a dramatic increase in the people power in high-need schools to take effective innovations to scale. I believe that one place to look for that extra people power is to the nation’s young adults. Young people are asking to serve in record numbers. AmeriCorps applications hit 582,000 for just 80,000 positions last year.

In many ways, I see these idealistic young adults as everyday heroes to struggling students – exciting, near peer tutors, mentors, and role models who motivate students to succeed, and give them the extra attention they need.