By Katie Doyle — It’s difficult to finish college and tell people that you’re doing service. You get your college degree and you… volunteer? In this economy? When you could have a paying job? Most people don’t understand it. So when I tell people I’m doing City Year, working 11-hour days, and receiving a small living stipend, they have a few questions.
City Year is a nonprofit organization focused on empowering students in public schools across the country. City Year corps members provide in-school and after school tutoring and mentoring with off-track students in order to combat the drop out rate. Corps members work long hours all week long during 10 months of service. They get few days off and work long hours during the week.
I am serving at City Year San José/Silicon Valley. We serve in the Alum Rock Unified School District on the east side of San José and provide school-based services including academic support, behavior and attendance monitoring and support, and after school programming.
City Year currently serves in five elementary and two middle schools in Alum Rock. After weeks of intensive training, I received my service placement at Fischer Middle School. Fischer is a new partnership – City Year has never been a part of that school before. My job, along with 10 other corps members, our team lead, and our program manager, is to build that relationship with Fischer staff and students. We will provide math and literacy tutoring to 6th-8th grade students in addition to our positive behavior and attendance initiatives. We are also piloting a new after school model called Extended Learning Time (ELT) for nearly all of the 6th grade students.
Research has shown that many students face a drop in achievement between 5th and 6th grades. The purpose of the ELT program is to keep students in school longer in order to provide not only additional instruction but also to foster a community of social and emotional support. Sixth grade is a pivotal time for students, and we are aiming to keep them on track.
So why do I serve?
When I graduated, I could have gotten a teaching job and started my professional career with a paying job. I’m not saying it’s easy to find a teaching job, but my Marquette education made me a well qualified, highly recommended candidate for a job as a Spanish teacher.
- I serve because our too many students are not succeeding in our schools. The drop-out rate is astounding – one million students drop out of school every year. Half of the students who drop out are from just 12% of schools.
- I serve because I want to help students in a different capacity than is feasible as a classroom teacher. Students need the one-on-one support from someone like a corps member – a young, idealistic, caring person who will do everything in their power to make sure that student succeeds. Classroom teachers have other responsibilities that often prevent them from being able to provide that individualized attention to all students.
- I serve because our public education system is in trouble. Students need positive role models, one-on-one assistance, and additional engagement that isn’t always possible in a traditional classroom setting.
- I serve with City Year because it is an organization of young people for young people. I believe in the mission and values of City Year. A year of service shouldn’t be a surprise; it should be expected for everyone to give back to their country in some way. City Year allows me to serve my country by giving me the opportunity to serve our nation’s public schools.
All views and opinions expressed are my own and are not a reflection of City Year or AmeriCorps. For more information about City Year, please visit http://www.cityyear.org.