At City Year, we are working to increase graduation rates across the country, and changing the lives of the students we serve. Here in Cleveland, City Year AmeriCorps member Karimah Williams has given a year of her life to fulfill this work and is returning to give another year as a senior AmeriCorps member. 

Karimah knows Cleveland. She was born and raised in the Glenville neighborhood on Cleveland’s east side and attended Cleveland Metropolitan School District schools for her entire education before heading to college. She understands Cleveland — its challenges and what Cleveland students are facing in their neighborhoods and schools.

“I came to City Year Cleveland to work with Cleveland public school students,” said Karimah. “Because of my background, I knew that Cleveland public education could be great, and I wanted to be a part of ensuring that other students had the positive experience I had.” 

City Year, an AmeriCorps program that deploys teams of young adults to serve for a year of full-time service, builds long-term partnerships with schools in high-poverty, urban communities. AmeriCorps members work with students who need extra support in academics and social-emotional skills to stay in school and on track to graduate, ready for college and career success.

Last year, Karimah was part of a startup team at a new City Year partner school and she is taking up that challenge again as she joins another new partner school this year. Through the generosity of the Cleveland community, City Year Cleveland has grown its AmeriCorps member’s capacity by over 35 percent in the last two years. This support has enabled us to partner with additional schools.  Last year, we partnered with George Washington Carver STEM, and this year we have forged a partnership with Fullerton School of Academics, allowing us to serve over 800 more students.

“Carver has so many gems in its building. I work with one 3rd grade student who has really struggled. When we started working together at the beginning of the year, he was at a kindergarten reading level. This kid is great. He is artistic, enjoys taking notes and takes immense pride in his penmanship. And he has so much to say, if you just take the time to listen. While preparing for an upcoming test, he said the most remarkable thing to me: ‘So I have to take this test…Well thanks to you, I am ready. I’m going to pass and I’m going to the fourth grade. Everyone says I’m not going to pass but they are wrong because I’m smart.’ It was inspiring to see his confidence. That moment was great for me and you know what? He did pass and advance to the 4th grade too.”

“I’m proud I was part of the first team in City Year’s new partner school. We have had our challenges along the way but we have made some great successes and gains and we have established a good base for City Year here. The kids know us and like having us here. Being able to have red jackets in this building for a few more years, I think will be transformational. I’m excited to be able to bring City Year to another school this year.”

“Working with kids, keeps you young, keeps you fresh and that is why I came back. I’m ready for round two!” And when asked if she would ever leave Cleveland, Karimah answered with a smile “Where else would I go? This is home.”


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