Their motto is “Give a year, change the world.” I’ve always been intrigued by these 17- to 24-year-olds I’ve run into over the last few years who give a year of domestic service and wear those big red jackets with contagious enthusiasm and pride. Last week I had the privilege of spending time with the passionate young people of City Year in New York and wanted to introduce them to you.
Some call it “the domestic Peace Corps”, but the young members of City Year don’t only keep the peace in the urban areas they work in, they educate, inspire and motivate, working as tutors, mentors and role models. In the New York chapter, specifically, they are looking at bleak statistics: 58% of 4th graders are illiterate and half will not graduate from high school. So the corpsmen and women meet those stats with their own numbers: 11,225 children served during in-school and after-school programs, 10,139 gallons of paint used to create murals to refurbish playspaces, and 562,000 hours of time spent transforming communities.
The corps members come from diverse backgrounds. Some defer admission to Ivy League universities. Others grew up in inner cities, inspired by the City Year work in their own classrooms growing up. Falling under the federal umbrella of AmeriCorps, all members take nominal stipends for their volunteer time, but give maximum one-on-one benefits to the ones who need it most.
Update: Watch the CNN.com Live interview
I’m continually impressed by the power and initiative this generation shows by taking part in organizations and causes to better America.
I am a City Year alumna and currently I work with young people on the United States Public Service Academy’s Youth Advisory Council in Virginia. These young people (High Schoolers, Collegians, and even Law and Grad students) are working together to pass the United States Public Service Academy (USPSA or Academy) bill.
“The U.S. Public Service Academy will be an undergraduate institution devoted to developing civilian leaders for the public sector. Modeled on the military academies, the Academy will offer four years of tuition-free education in exchange for five years of civilian service following graduation.”
Speaking to these young leaders about their vision for America is inspiring and reminds me that young people really can change the world.
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As a City Year New York Alumnist, I can speak firsthand as to the power that City Year has to influence young people. The kids in the red jackets are some of the finest young men and women you’ll ever meet, and the sheer enthusiasm with which they face great obstacles is endlessly inspiring.
(Go get ’em, Jairo.)
I love City Year! . City Year gave me the stability and the structure that i needed to better myself and ready myself for the real world after my mom died. Thanks to City Year I am aware of so much that is going on in my own back yard that i would have not known about unless i was working in such underserved areas.
How do you believe that your day to day activities really help to make a difference in the lives of children? City Year’s motto, as metioned is “Give a year. Change the world”. How are you changing the world?
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Well, Susan, taking a stand against apathy by serving a year in a public school, while making less than $300 a week, while other members of their generation are pursuing self-interest or just getting drunk or high won’t change the world in one year, but it’s a good start. For how student’s and communities’ daily lives are impacted, we can look at the improved test scores and drops in the rate of school violence at schools in which City Year partners. Beyond the statistics, I’m sure if we all look back far enough we can remember someone from our school days whose belief in us and whose warmth probably changed the course of our education and life pursuits. That is what City Year does, at the very least. If that were all City Year did, it would be worth having.
Clearly Susan, you have never volunteered or worked with underprivileged children. I have witnessed first-hand, the change that can happen in children’s lives with even minimal tutoring and encouragement. So many of these kids come from awful home situations, and the teachers in school don’t have the energy or the time to invest in one-on-one time with them. I don’t much about City Year, but from reading about them and from working with other similar organizations, I can tell you these people are doing amazing work.
Hey santos and Rachel I think Susan was just asking a question. Her question was fair and one that I don’t read as negative. No reason to assume that she has never volunteered or worked with underprivileged children. Check out the sentence above at the end of the story: Post your questions here or at iReport.com. That being said, I’d like to know what the red jackets are all about.
I always see these kids in Bed-Stuy where I live but I don’t see them downtown Brooklyn where I work. How many schools do you work in?
I know that City Year as an organization struggles with a few different dichotomies. First of all, there is a lot of question as to whether it is City Year’s goal to focus on education of students or to focus on inspiring students into community action. Second of all, it’s unclear about whether the program is meant to serve as a leadership development program for the corps members or just a year of service to better the communities. I know that in both instances it would be beneficial if the organization could serve both equally, however, I have seen that this rarely happens. What do Jairo and Brittany believe the focus of the organization will (or should) be as it continues to evolve?
I am a second year at City Year New York. It has made a big impact on my life. We work in 18 elementary schools, 3 middle schools and this year 2 new high schools. I have also earned my associates prior to attend City Year. We all come from different areas and different background but no matter what we all serve to make a difference. Whether it is big or small right now all depends on how much effort we put out as well as the communities we serve. We take pride in our work and a simple smile upon a child’s face is a good enough reason for me to believe that our present in these schools make a big difference. And as the year go by more and more school will be added to our list and more and more communities will have witnessed our present…
I too am an alum of City Year New York and believe that the time I had the privilege of spending with middle school youth in Hunt’s Point allowed me to show them that they had the power to make their community a better place. I hope that I inspired all of them to take up the ethic of service for the remainder of their lives – that they are always doing something to make the world a better place. I know I accomplished that in some of them and intend to return to volunteer again for this year’s Young Heroes program, which is City Year’s middle school initiative.
That is how I know I changed the world in the year that I gave.
Kevin, the Red Jackets do what the report mentions, they tutor and mentor youth and lead them in community service projects.
City Year New York also engages the communities they serve in by running community service days in the five neighborhoods City Year New York serves.
Jill, I believe that City Year New York is planning on serving in 25 schools next year but I urge everyone to check out the main website,
http://www.cityyear.org to learn more about this international action tank for service!
@Jill – To my knowledge, City Year focuses on 5 areas in New York, 2 of which are in Brooklyn (Bed-Stuy and East New York). I’m not certain of the exact number of schools.
City Year changes your life, in more ways that you even imagined. These corps members work insanely hard and their efforts have a marked impact in the schools they serve. Their work is desperately needed, and City Year is constantly seeking new ways to do more, reach more, change more. I applaud all those serving now for making this difficult commitment.
Hi, I’m a corps member from 1994 City Year San Jose (Go Green Team!). Before City Year, I was pretty aimless. City Year gave me the enthusiastic “leg-up” that I needed to get actively psyched about figuring out a direction for my life. What do you see your life after City Year being like, what tools will you bring with you from this experience?
Here is the “elevator pitch” that succinctly describes CY and what it’s all about:
City Year is an Americorps program that unites a diverse group of 17-24 year olds for ten months engaging in full time community service. Corps members live on a small stipend and serve in various under-served/underprivileged schools doing mentoring, tutoring, in-class small group instruction, lunch-clubs and most importantly after-school programs. Additionally, corps members do physical community service projects all over the city throughout their time there.
That’s it in the short, but to be honest, it is truly hard to describe in words what corps members do and the profound impact they make on the communities they serve. What is also great about CY is that while corps members have a chance to make an impact on the communities they serve, they also make an impact on one another. The corps includes people who are pursuing GEDs to people who are taking a year off before medical and law school, people of all socio-economic brackets and all walks of life. It is a blessing to be able to work with and learn from all every corps member and CY employee. I served the CYNY corps of 2005-2006 and it was the best year of my life and the best decision I have made. As much as I complained about wearing the uniform every morning, I miss it twice as much now!
I would encourage anyone within the age range to take ten months to do City Year (or any service program for that matter) because it will really change their life and the lives of the people they serve.
LEADERS 4 LIFE!!!!
– Rego Park’s Finest
My daughter is in her 2nd year with City Year. Last year in Philadelphia this in PS308 in Bed Stuy. It is very time consuming and very rewarding for her.
She is a 2006 graduate of Villanova University. I am proud of the work she is doing and in awe of the many young people I have met who give many, many hours and pieces of their lives to the kids in these schools.
This experience cannot be imagined. It is a life committment and I am honored that my daughter lives this philosophy.
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 idealistic leaders make a difference in the lives of children, and transform schools and neighborhoods in 18 U.S. locations and Johannesburg, South Africa. Just as important, during their year of service corps members develop civic leadership skills they can use throughout a lifetime of community service.
Major corporations and businesses participate in our mission by serving as strategic partners, team sponsors, and national leadership sponsors.
Together we’re building a citizen service movement that is larger than our organization, our lifetime, and ourselves.
“Nothing means more to me than providing New York’s children with the tools they need to succeed in the classroom and in life, and no organization has done a better job of helping me achieve this goal than City Year.”
– Michael Bloomberg, Mayor, New York City
To experience City Year first hand come volunteer with us on our Martin Luther King Jr, service day on january 19th in East New York or in the South Bronx.
For more information on how to participate or volunteer
Great question Susan! It a common question for any service organization. With City Year, they use data like reading assessments and test scores to focus their services. It allows others such as yourself see the difference being made and them to give more accurate support to the students.
Furthermore, as tutors, mentors, and role models, City Year’s young leaders are uniquely positioned to connect with children and help them stay on track – and get back on track – to graduate. Corps members make a difference in the lives of children and transform schools and neighborhoods across the United States and in South Africa.
Service is like gold.
I agree with many of the posts. City Year cannot be described in words. You have to go out and experience it. I am an alumna of the 2005-2006 corps: East Harlem P.S. 50 team! The things I have learned through City Year has followed me in life. I am thankful everyday that I took a year to serve! I am excited, happy, and proud that the organization has grown, and I know that the work we do will impact future generations. I would do it all over again given the chance.
My question to the corps members is: What are some of the ways that you are reaching out to people to inform them about City Year? As the organization gets bigger, how will you ensure unity throughout the five boroughs?
Keep up the fantastic work!
This is amazing to see City Year on CNN, as an alumna I am proud to see the red jackets on TV again!
Speaking to the dichotomy referenced above, I think City Year, can and should focus on serving the community but also on developing the corps members. In this day in age when volunteerism is at a record high, one of the biggest complaints is that volunteers are not fully utilized.
City Year not only respects that volunteers have useful skills but gives them a chance to further develop their skills. This is what makes City Year special- it not only transforms the lives of the students in the schools, but transforms the lives of corps members also.
After corps members graduate from their one or two year term of service, they do on to do some amazing things because they had to opportunity to develop more skills. I think many other nonprofits and volunteer programs should aim to more of the same.
I know personally that because of City Year I found a career focus that I was lacking before my term of service. City Year is an amazing place and only has good things in its future.
I served on the 07-08 year of City Year NY and it was the best experience I ever had. It was my first job and hands down it was the most challenging, rewarding part of my life. at first I wondered “how would I make a difference? I’m just like everybody else.” I believe that is how I was able to make such an impact in the students lives. I had a student that started calling me her big brother and I went to visit the school today. I seen her in her class and she looked like she saw a ghost. I was laughing so hard and the rest of the students came up and jumped me with hugs. That’s how I know I made a difference.
Last but not least I want to show some love to my boy Jairo. I see you kid!
This is a GREAAAT project, from what I’ve heard. It takes a lot of stamina and patience to do this sort of thing.
…yay Brittany! You go girl!
I am a New York and Louisiana alum and current New York staff member in the Recruitment Department. I’m very proud to be a part of the national service movement, especially as a member of City Year New York. I’m also proud of our corps members – those boots on the ground – because they have the opportunity to apply and work with so many other service organizations and they choose to make a difference here. Keep up the good work guys and continue to create positive changes, not only in the communities and the kids we work with but within yourselves!
A question I would like to be answered…What’s it like to volunteer for an entire year?
So as I had got sonw reading this, I wasn’t quite sure about the devoting a year. But I could understand if your a grateful person – who wants to help others. What motivated these two to get in the program ? I mean, is it hard to see others doing with out – or not having as much as others, what if you was in their place, would you want them to do what your doing, to help them get by because thats what you think is right ?
I couldn’t tell you how much I am amazed by this. I am a Louisville Kentucky student at Virtual High School, my favorite thing is to help my younger friends to stay in school and get good grades because it will affect you in the future. I have a friend in middle school and I have a little brother in-law that is in 2nd grade and he is the smartest kid I know. He learned to read/spell in Kindergarden and when he comes home I always help him with school work that he doesn’t understand. I’ll be a Senior in 2009 and I think that its a good thing to do what you guys do and you should should keep it up. So, how is it like to teach children to stay in school? and what type of routines do yall use?
I’m glad that so many people in the world care about others. But the question I want to ask is:
How do you deal with the fact that you can’t help everybody?
How does it feel to know that you are helping people and doing something good for people you dont know?
Hi, I always wanted to be apart of those people who help and aide others over in Africa because i read about their tragedies and chaos that happens over there and that is what gives me determination to make every place a better place. My question is, What gives you guys the determination to help others around you?
Do you enjoy helping those in need, whether its too much or not ? Also, do you and them get an experience out of it together in the end, do they feel that you’ve helped them to move up or that you just was in it for all the wrong reasons ?
Hi, Ihave a question I want to ask you and that is how long it took you to get all this set-up because from what I see just from this part of the site, there was a lot of hard work put into this and I would also like to know was it hard to get everything we see here completely right, like straight foward.
What motivated Jairo Estralla and Brittany Maslowsky to give a year of their life for this projrct. What do they fell doing this work
I am so proud of you guys, City Year has definitely been an eye opener and I agree with the idea that we make a life by what we give to others. … Who would have thought that day would change my life for ever. Keep doing what you do, peace, love and a little bit of us!
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Good Job Guys!!! I am so proud of you. City Year is a great organization that is evolving more and more each year. As a new corp. member I am experiencing more and new things each day I serve in P.S. 309 in Bed- Stuy.
Like a child I feel City Year has learned from its mistakes in the past and is getting better and better each year. I feel taking a year can not only help a corp member change the world, but can help them open up their mind to new ideas and perspectives.
I know so far this year I have met new people, adopted new ideas and added to the knowledge I already have. City Year truly helps all the youth that wear these red jackets every day break down barriers and abolish prejudices. City Year is a great start for anyone to a great future.
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What is the graduation rate? My daughter was just fired from CYNY after 7 1/2 months of 50-60hours/week of service for being tardy too many times. She was allowed to make up the time, but they decided she could no longer do this. She is out the $5000 scholarship and we are out the 3000 mile plane rides and financial support over the past 8 months. Her team is down to 3. Her job performance was outstanding and she had letters of support from the teachers she worked with. The 2nd grader who was no longer skipping school because of her will most likely go back to skipping. Helping NY kids and Corps members? Not really.