Tuesday, April 19, 2011

City Year

Do you know about City Year?  I had vaguely heard of it and, of course, if you see a City Year member, you see a young person in a bright red varsity jacket and khakis.   They were particularly noticeable at the recent forum on SPS put on by Seattle Channel.  I recently sat down and interviewed the head of City Year Seattle, Simon Amiel, about who City Year is and what they do in SPS.

After talking with Simon, I was very impressed and I want to raise awareness and support for City Year.  The reason I feel strongly about this is because in our high-need schools,  they are doing exactly what I would like to see happen throughout the district.  They are:
  • in schools all day
  • tutoring students
  • building relationships with students and staff and community
  • being role models to students
This is the kind of intimate and direct intervention that many of these students need.

First, from their website, a little background information:

Twenty years ago, City Year was founded by Michael Brown and Alan Khazei, then-roommates at Harvard Law School, who felt strongly that young people in service could be a powerful resource for addressing our nation's most pressing issues.

The name “City Year” reflects the idea that just as young people enroll in a freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year at school, so too should they be challenged to dedicate themselves to a “city year” of full-time service, idealism, civic engagement, and leadership development.

City Year unites young people of all backgrounds for a year of full-time service, giving them the skills and opportunities to change the world.  As tutors, mentors and role models, these diverse young leaders help children stay in school and on track, and transform schools and communities across the United States, as well as through international affiliates in Johannesburg, South Africa and London, England. Just as important, during their year of service corps members develop civic leadership skills they can use throughout a lifetime of community service.

City Year has a 9-1 applicant ratio.  They take young people from ages 17-24.   You don't have to have a college degree but given that it is a competitive application process, it doesn't hurt.  They have taken applicants with just a high school diploma.

They have varied funding with one-third from the feds and two-thirds their own fundraising.  (They are endorsed by Secretary Duncan.)  They have been working in Seattle since nearly the inception of City Year.

In Seattle there are about 65 members and they hope to build to 240 by 2015.  Their members work in 3 elementary schools and 3 of middle schools.   If the Families and Education levy passes, they would apply to work in at least 4 high schools, again, with direct intervention and tutoring and the 21 elementary, K-8s and middle schools. 

I'll be frank.  As I was researching City Year, I was struck by the some of the similarities to Teach for America.  Both are about the same age.  Both have core values of service to K-12 students in high need schools as well as developing civic engagement in young people.  It is interesting how both also have similar rates of endorsement by principals (although teachers endorse City Year far more than they endorse TFA but I would think you might expect that). 

What I liked about the teacher endorsements for City Year were that teachers felt CY members helped "foster a positive environment for learning" AND "helped students feel more motivated to learn."  Both of these numbers were over 85%. 

If City Year is in your school, give us some feedback on their work.


Jet City mom said...

My oldest did a CItyYear and worked in BF.Day & with TAF after high school. ( 2000-2001)

I think that perhaps CityYear youth work with CAN @ Garfield ( but they could just be regular Americorps)
My youngest also participated with YoungHeroes in 5th /6th grades & I tried to get the teen version of CityYear in Summit K-12, as the director was very interested, but the principal had too much on her plate at that time.

There are lots of volunteer organizations mostly on the Americorps model that are looking for youth interested in service before college/work.

Just last weekend I volunteered ( I am a steward with People for Puget Sound) on the Duwamish for Earth day, with young people from the UW-Bothell as well as Earth Corps.

CityYear workers are given a great deal of support & training, and I think it is a valuable resource for both the students it helps as well as the youth who serve.

Leonie Haimson said...

City Year has received some very large no-bid contracts from NYC DOE. They are quite politically connected here in NYC. I have seen no independent evaluations of their work.

Anonymous said...

My younger brother worked as one of the CityYear mentors in Boston in the early 90's. I was impressed with what they did for the kids who needed the help. Yes, they are very well connected politically as was touted as a Clinton agenda back then.

A Friend of Seattle

GreyWatch said...

We have a friend who did City Year at Madison. Can't speak for anyone but him, but he had his act together for an early 20-something, and was compassionate, caring, committed, and open minded and really got the kids. He's now back in school getting his degree.

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