Starting a nonprofit takes a lot of tenacity. City Year alumna Beth Marco Bayouth (Chicago ’02) believes City Year is a great place to gain the skills you need to get a new program off the ground.
"I feel like I had a tremendous amount of responsibility and ability to be entrepreneurial throughout my [AmeriCorps] year," Beth said.
In Chicago, Beth and her teammates served as mentors and tutors to students and supported teachers in the classroom during the week. On weekends, they ran a program called Young Heroes, a service learning and leadership development program for middle-school aged youth. During this time, students and their AmeriCorps members performed a variety of community service projects, such as painting murals, cleaning up local parks and more.
"Working on the Young Heroes program, I had a lot of autonomy," Beth said. "Because I was given so much responsibility, it was a little bit easier as far as thinking through the components you have to think through when starting an organization. I did try to fundraise a little bit with Heroes, but then I had to think about recruiting students and school partnerships and what the actual programming looked like. […] I had to figure out how to delegate and prioritize time, to make those things happen—all at once."
In 2014, a former City Year teammate who had moved to Los Angeles approached Beth with an idea. What if they took everything they learned from City Year's Young Heroes program and created a new nonprofit that focused on diversity, inclusion and service? And thus, Big Citizen HUB was born: a safe place for diverse groups of young people to unite as a community and learn a common civic language while addressing local and global challenges.
Now, Beth oversees the fundraising, operations, systems and strategic planning that has enabled Big Citizen Hub to engage over 500 young people ages 11-26.
Every Saturday between January and July, these Big Citizens ranging from eleven to twenty-six-years-old meet to plan and organize team-based projects that address pressing social issues affecting their communities. These “Big Citizens” commit to a minimum of 100 hours of service each year as a part of the program. Past projects included letter writing to corporations as well as local and state governments, walking in climate change marches, as well as making toiletry kits for homeless shelters.
"We’re building leaders through introducing them to different peers from different neighborhoods and different backgrounds, putting them on teams and letting them work together to address issues that they care about," Beth said. "The social issues they’re addressing change from year to year, based on what the kids are interested in. Some of the [issues] that seem to stick are homelessness, environmental justice, access to healthy foods and then this year, a big one was immigration."
The experience Beth gained during her tenure at City Year prepared her to not only help start Big Citizen HUB, but also grow it into a successful program. When the organization launched in 2015, they had 75 students serving. Just two years later, they have worked with more than 500 young people from more than 70 neighborhoods in Los Angeles, who together have volunteered 50,000 hours on community service projects.
Beth Marco Bayouth, City Year Chicago ’02, is one of six winners of this year’s Comcast NBCUniversal Leadership Awards. To learn more about the Comcast NBCUniversal Leadership Award and this year’s award winners, visit the City Year alumni website here.