At City Year, we’re working to bridge the gap in high-poverty communities between the support the students in the communities actually need and what their schools are designed to provide. In doing so, we're helping to increase graduation rates across the country, and making an impact in the lives of the students we serve.
Our progress can be attributed to a unique, holistic approach, which we call Whole School Whole Child. It’s based around a group of carefully selected, highly trained young adults—our AmeriCorps members—who provide individualized support to at-risk students, while also establishing an overall positive learning environment in the schools throughout America that need us the most. It’s their dedication and hard work that’s helping students reach their full potential, while also having a positive effect on the community as a whole.
The students we’re serving
To identify the students who need our help the most, we partner with schools and districts and look for those who are more at risk of dropping out than their peers. We do this using an approach based on research from Johns Hopkins University.
We call these early warning indicators (poor attendance, disruptive behavior, and course failure in math and English) the ABCs, and we know that a student who shows just one of these signs as early as sixth grade has only a 25% percent chance of graduating high school on time with their peers. However, if a student reaches the 10th grade on track and on time, he or she has a 75% chance of graduating. That’s why we try to reach these students early—specifically, during third through ninth grade— and provide them with one-on-one support to help them overcome the challenges they face both in and out of school.
The faces behind our service
To work with the students directly, we rely on the energy and dedication of our AmeriCorps members-a diverse group of educated, young adults who serve full-time for 11 months in City Year's partner schools to provide extra support for students, teachers, and the school.
Being a corps member is a lot of work, and it's not for everyone. That's why our recruitment process is highly selective. We want to ensure we're giving the right support to students from those best suited to give it. We look for more than just passion. We look for energized, driven, and approachable leaders who can support their students while serving as a "near-peer" role model-someone closer in age that students can look up to. The age element of the relationship is important; because we've found that students are more willing to trust and confide in someone they feel like they can better relate to. This is also why we look for corps members who come from the same communities as our students, because stronger relationships can be built and a bigger impact can be made.
Reaching the right student, with the right support can be the difference in whether they graduate or drop out of school.
How it all comes together
City Year AmeriCorps members handle a tremendous amount of responsibility right from the beginning. Even before the school year starts, teams of AmeriCorps members are placed in City Year’s partner schools to meet with school administrators and develop student focus lists—based on the ABCs—so that they can start reaching out to the students they’ll be serving.
When it’s time to work directly with the students, our AmeriCorps members are there for them in each and every way. Here are just a few things that AmeriCorps members do throughout the school day:
In addition to their daily commitment to their students, our AmeriCorps members continue to have regular check-ins with school administrators and teachers to review students’ progress and next steps.
While education is one of our main focuses at City Year, our AmeriCorps members’ involvement goes far beyond academic support, because the students we work with face more than just academic challenges. They often face emotional and social challenges, too. And it’s through helping them develop the skills they need to face these things head on that our AmeriCorps members are able to make such an impact in their students’ lives.
All of these factors contribute to City Year’s progress. From full-time, devoted AmeriCorps members, to strong partnerships with school administrators, and to individualized support for students, our Whole School, Whole Child approach has made a measurable impact on the students and communities we serve. And our Long-Term Impact strategy ensures that City Year will continue to grow and reach the students and schools that need us the most. Because we believe every student has the power to reach their full potential, and we want to help them do it.