By Ashlyn Garry, Communications Projects Coordinator
At City Year, we strive to promote our belief in the power of young people and inclusivity in all that we do. These values are central to the service our corps members provide and to the work of our staff. We recently launched an innovative way to promote both ideals called Be The Change Breakfasts, and you’re invited to join us on May 15!
The Be The Change Breakfast series brings together City Year champions of all backgrounds—City Year Boston Board Members, corporate and community partners, future corps members, LACY and give a year representatives, and alumni—to network and to learn more about our service in schools. But most importantly, guests can connect directly with our most powerful ambassadors: our corps members.
At the breakfast, corps members share their stories of service ranging from their journey to City Year to how they know they have made the right choice to how they know they’re making a difference in the schools where they serve. The conversations between attendees and corps members foster an inclusive dialogue where everyone can participate and learn. As an alumnus or alumna, you have a particularly unique perspective on service and impact to share. Recent attendee Elizabeth Lozano ’12, ’13 noted that she “really enjoyed the Breakfast” because “hearing about the corps experience at City Year Boston gave [her] the opportunity to reflect on [her] experience as a corps member and Team Leader at City Year Miami.” A corps member’s story about a recent parent engagement event that drew more than 300 attendees to their school specifically resonated with Lozano. Overall, a Be The Change Breakfast creates an opportunity for corps members and champions to connect on an individual level, and for attendees to truly understand the dedication, passion, and power of these young people who are serving in Boston.
You are invited to join us at the next Be The Change Breakfast is on May 15! If you have been looking for a chance to reconnect with the City Year community or just want to meet some remarkable members of this year’s corps, this breakfast is an informal way to do so. As the service year begins to conclude, we hope to have a strong showing of alumni attendees to welcome the corps into the alumni community and share their insight.
Upcoming Be The Change Breakfasts are scheduled on Thursday, May 15, and Thursday, June 5, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. at City Year Headquarters. If you would like to introduce any friends or colleagues to City Year, they are also welcome to join us. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 6. We hope to see you there!
By Adam Aronovitz, Education Director and Co-Founder at The Cookbook Project
As I stood in the bright cafeteria at Blackstone Elementary School watching ecstatic 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders investigating the geographical origins of tomatoes, chili peppers, and cucumbers, I realized I was watching a dream come true. I traveled around the world for the past five years on a mission to solve the greatest public health crisis on earth. Across Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia, I lead health education programs with communities at-risk for obesity, diabetes, and other lifestyle-related chronic diseases. However, standing in my home city I realized the most important programming was happening right in my own backyard.
My name is Adam Aronovitz and I am the Education Director and Co-Founder of The Cookbook Project (CBP), a global health education non-profit based in Boston. That afternoon at the Blackstone was particularly inspiring because the roots of CBP began to flourish when I was a teacher in the Boston Public Schools. Many of my students in East Boston had recently emigrated to the U.S. Their families made incredible sacrifices to come here, leaving their homes, families, and businesses behind to come to this country. They were also leaving behind their food culture.
When they arrived in the U.S. they adopted the standard American diet, which is largely comprised of processed foods, animal proteins that are high in cholesterol (only found in animal foods) and saturated fats.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, unhealthy eating and inactivity causes between 300,000 and 580,000 deaths every year, which is almost equal to the number of annual deaths caused by tobacco.
I believe education, food literacy, and cooking skills represent the central path to sustainable health. Alissa Bilfield, fellow CBP Co-Founder, and I built a multidisciplinary health and cooking education experiential curriculum and launched programs as The Cookbook Project.
The most important thing I’ve realized between then and now is that a successful health educator does not need to be an expert in nutrition! Anyone has the capacity to learn how to implement this curriculum in their communities or even in their own homes to get youth excited about cooking healthy food and taking charge of their own health. That’s why I was so thrilled to see City Year Boston’s National Grid team serving at the Blackstone implementing the curriculum with a diverse group of students.
To date, we have trained 400 local leaders as Food Educators in 35 states, and 20 countries on 6 continents to implement the CBP curriculum in their own communities! Students leave CBP workshops feeling empowered to start creating edible masterpieces in their own kitchen. Data from our pilot Curriculum Impact Study has shown that students participating in CBP programming are:
- eating more fruits and vegetables and whole grains,
- eating less added sugar and processed food,
- eating more home-cooked meals,
- drinking more water,
- exercising more,
- sleeping better,
- better able to focus in school.
We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to pilot a program with City Year Boston this winter and see CBP programs in the Boston Public Schools with amazing support from the Barbara Lynch Foundation. We invite any and all City Year and AmeriCorps members (and interested parents/community leaders) across the country to apply to become Food Educators today and change the world, one meal at a time!
Please visit our website for more information about joining our global movement!
By Denys Godwin, corps member serving on National Grid team at Blackstone Elementary School
In four words, one student at Blackstone Elementary School eloquently summed up the idea of the Cookbook Project (CBP): “Food gives us feelings.”
This semester, in collaboration with the Blackstone, CBP, and the Barbara Lynch Foundation, our team incorporated a lesson plan from the Cookbook Project curriculum each week during our extended day program. Thus far, students have made their own recipe books, learned the difference between whole foods and processed foods, and created their own fruit salads.
Recently, we were lucky to have CBP’s co-founders, Adam Aronovitz and Alissa Bilfield, visit and teach our students about the origins of different ingredients.
“It’s about educating students, especially in urban areas with higher immigrant populations, to empower them to take back control of their food,” Aronovitz said. “A lot of times we see people give up control over what they eat to fast food restaurants and processed food makers, and we want to fill that knowledge gap. We also want to teach cooking skills, so that young Americans can learn how to make dishes that connect them to their cultural heritage.”
During their visit, students played a game called Spice Trade—where they guide a blindfolded classmate to find a spice jar. After this game, the students moved to a larger space. In each corner of the room, corps member held signs reading either, “Europe,” “Africa,” “Asia and the Middle East,” or “The Americas.” When a food item was called, student had to move to the corner where they think the food originated.
For chocolate, Aronovitz stretched the learning a bit farther. When the students made it to the Americas corner of the room he asked, “Where in the Americas do you think chocolate is from? What country?” He took a few answers, then said, “Actually, it’s Mexico! So if you like chocolate, say, ‘Thank you Mexico!’”
The students called out, “Thank you, Mexico!”
After that activity, the students returned to their desks, and wrote a story about how an ingredient such as chocolate might have made its way into other parts of the world. Our 3rd grade students, we wrote a story about how Adam the lumberjack from Spain went to Asia to chop trees. While there, he found an apple tree, ate the apple, and brought the seeds back to Spain. Juan*, another 3rd grader, volunteered to act out the whole story as it was read aloud to the group.
The students were sad to see Aronovitz and Bilfield leave, but every student went home with the knowledge that the world of food was bigger and deeper than they had known before.
To learn more about the Cookbook Project, check out our blog on Friday. CBP Co-Founder Adam Aronovitz guest writes to tell us more about their program.
* Name changed to protect student’s privacy
By Abigail Chang, corps member serving on the Westfield Capital Management team
The learning curve at City Year was sharp. I joined fresh out of high school, and felt like the proverbial baby bird learning to fly by falling out of the nest. Up until City Year, the most challenging work I ever had to do was Calculus, and I had 11 years of education helping me there.
I never predicted that City Year would have such a powerful effect on me. I wafted around my senior year of high school without much of a direction except the lifelong assumption that I would mosey my way on over to college sometime that summer. But college is four precious years, and I refused to spend them wafting. I chose to spend a gap year doing service.
Every day at City Year was a first, from sending my first professional e-mail to leading my first event. As I forged new territory, I found I was honing my skills and experience and developing a strong sense of self.
City Year provided me a several “sudden revelations” that may have taken years to learn in college. I learned through trial-by-8th-grader that the appearance of confidence is essential. When my teacher was absent, my teammate and I needed to keep the class focused for the substitutes. I learned then that when people looked to me for leadership, especially students, I needed to exude confidence in everything I did.
My first few leadership endeavors were “messy” because I did not realize how much details I needed to organize for the project to run smoothly. As a result, I learned to plan. Timelines, goals, pre-reading, and many other planning tools have become part of the way I think. (I am actually in the process of writing a proposal for my summer to present to myself!) I am even now gathering materials to use to tackle college as effectively as possible. Now, though, there will be no wafting. I have the confidence and the skills and the focus to make my years of college valuable.
About the author:
Abigail Chang is a 2013-2014 corps member serving on the Westfield Capital Management team at Mildred Avenue K-8 School in Mattapan.
City Year Boston (CYB): What first attracted you to City Year?
Roberta Duarte (RD): I always thought I would go straight to college after high school. But I did research when I was looking into college. A college advisor said to me, “Roberta you should do [City Year].” […] So I looked into it and was really excited by the mission. I was accepted, and then I had to figure out, “What do I do? Should I accept the offer or go straight to college?”
I know sometimes it can be hard for students to take a gap year once they start school. But I think if you’re lucky enough to get into City Year, you have to do it. I thought this would be a great way for me to really figure out what I wanted to do. Education? Health? Health Education? Why not start with something that would let me explore both and figure out what to study in college?
CYB: Can you share a highlight from your service year?
RD: Wow. It’s hard to say one because it was 10 months of intense work. I think just finishing the program and seeing my students progressing and accomplishing their goals was rewarding. Watching our team finish strong and seeing myself improving—I finished this program and I saw so much change. We made that happen. […] It was 10 months where I didn’t waste time at all. You don’t see change right away. But the whole year of service makes sense in the end.
CYB: What did you find most challenging about being a corps member?
RD: I think the idea of being flexible. […] You have to work with someone and turn around and there’s a student coming in for tutoring. Then there’s your manager saying she needs you to stay until 5 p.m. today, [and] then tomorrow stay until 8 p.m. In order to learn how to balance everything, you have to be flexible. You don’t learn it from day to night; it’s a process. I had to keep reminding myself that being flexible was the number one rule for this program—and of life in general.
CYB: After City Year, you enrolled in college. What inspired you to apply to and attend Mount Holyoke College?
RD: I came to visit [Mount Holyoke’s] campus and what really struck we was the community. It reminded me a lot of City Year. Even though it’s an all-women’s school, it’s very diverse. I wanted to keep pushing myself; it’s a rigorous environment and now I’m majoring in public health.
[…] Being raised in South America, women’s voice is not there. And moving to the states, it was sort of similar. When I was working with City Year, I could see my students going through those issues too—feeling like they weren’t being heard. It was really great to be able to tell my students about college. I was with an all-girls cohort of students. I’d say, “You know, I’m going to a women’s college next year.” And it really inspired then to learn what college is and how you apply.
CYB: What advice would you give a high school student considering applying for City Year?
RD: I think my number one [piece of] advice would be not to think twice. Just do it. If you get accepted, you have to do it. This is a priceless experience that will help you develop skills but will also show you focus in what you want to do with your life.
Mount Holyoke College is one of City Year’s Give A Year Partners. Through these partnerships, colleges and universities highlight their commitment to service by providing financial scholarships and recognition to students who give a year or more of service to their communities through City Year.
By Jessie Weiser, Senior Manager of Human Potential and Site Operations
Behind every good corps member is a talented Program Manager (PM). The PM role is perhaps the most rewarding and challenging staff position at City Year Boston. Program Managers spend the majority of their time in our partner schools leading teams of corps members through a 10-month journey of learning, reflection and service. We have an incredibly diverse, talented, and dedicated team of PMs—but, what’s it really like to be a Program Manager? We asked a few of them to tell us more about their experience.
Anthony Britt joined the City Year Boston staff in 2012, after teaching 8th-grade science through Teach for America. He leads the Sun Life Financial team at Mattahunt Elementary School.
“The PM role is all-encompassing. We’re responsible for making sure that corps members and staff at City Year Boston, and the teachers and administrators at our school, all align to serve our students. It’s definitely a challenge to triangulate all of the different personalities and interests that are involved. […] One of my favorite things about this role has been seeing my corps members grow as people and as professionals. The experience of coaching corps members through this growth has helped to prepare me for any future jobs that involve management. It has also been really nice to have a community of 20 PMs, because we can talk about issues and share best practices. Most of my friends working at other non-profits don’t have the same community of support—it’s great to have so many capable, mission-driven people serving in the same role.”
Cate Reynolds served as a corps member and Team Leader at Irving Middle School before joining our staff in 2013. She leads the Deloitte team at Irving Middle School.
“Serving in the corps was a life-changing experience for me. I thought I would just do a year of service, but I came to City Year and fell in love, and my career path changed. Now, I definitely want to continue my career in the education sector. I wanted to become a Program Manager because I wanted the chance to guide other people through the transformative experience that I had as a corps member. […] Of course, it’s also very challenging to manage recent high school and college graduates, while also building a strong partnership with our school. Mostly, I have been surprised by how different this role feels from serving in the corps. As a PM, I have a lot of autonomy, and I set the tone for my team, so I really have to really figure out what kind of leader/manager I want to be. I also spend a lot more time thinking about big-picture questions, like how this organization can more effectively impact the lives of our students.”
Julia Leb joined our staff in 2010, immediately after getting master’s degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She leads the Comcast/NBCUniversal team at Jeremiah E. Burke High School.
“Every day is different. I get to interact with a variety of stakeholders including students, families, corps members, senior corps members, teachers, administrators, and school partners—and, have different responsibilities to each of those groups. I’m expected to wear many different hats and to think quickly on my feet. There are definitely hard days, when I really need to rely on my support network within the organization to get through. But, all of this has taught me a lot about myself. As I navigate the various relationships and situations in my school, I am learning what I do well and what I could do better. I’ve gained skills that will be applicable to whatever I do next—whether that’s managing people, using data, conducting trainings or workshops, leading direct service projects, teaching young people, working as a school administrator, or doing an office job at a non-profit.”
Are you interested in joining the Program Manager team or learning more about career opportunities at City Year Boston? Beginning April 8, 2014, we’re accepting applications. Be sure check our jobs site for this and other career openings!
By guest blogger Bob Klein, Senior Vice President, Multiline & Voluntary Benefits at Sun Life Financial
Ed Milano (Vice President, Marketing for Sun Life Financial U.S.) and I had the opportunity earlier this month to visit the Mattahunt Elementary School in Mattapan, where we sponsor a team of City Year corps members. We shadowed two corp members (Miss Becca and Miss Marika) for the morning. Not only did we get to witness the great work of the City Year team first hand (and Ed got to finger paint) but we also learned some of the “secret sauce” to this team’s success: inclusion.
As I was watching Becca and other corp members lead the students through a meditation and relaxation program in preparation for the MCAS exams, I asked about the recruiting philosophy of the program. They explained that City Year firmly believes the diversity of the corps group allows for an inclusive mindset that will give the students they serve a more rounded learning experience. Seeing it in action reminded me of why we seek a similar inclusive approach at Sun Life. While it may not be as apparent as my experience at Mattahunt, building a diverse corporate team and establishing an inclusive culture is key to a healthy and successful business environment.
We believe the cornerstone of achieving our aggressive growth goals at Sun Life is driving a customer-focused business model. By developing a mindset of customer service first and foremost, we believe the business results will take care of themselves. To do so, it is imperative that we build a team of talented individuals who bring a range of thoughts, ideas, and experiences to the table. How can we expect to provide a quality experience for our customers if our own employees are not as diverse as the customer we serve? But diversity is not enough. Just as City Year works to design a structure that allows those diverse voices to be heard and utilized, Sun Life believes in giving its employees the forum to express their ideas and the support to bring them to life.
As CEO and founder of InclusionINC Shirley Engelmeier so richly stated, “Inclusion means being open to every employee’s ideas, knowledge, perspectives, approaches, and styles. It’s about engaging employees so they become active contributors by feeding the organization with great ideas. Companies that are proactive about intentionally harvesting as many diverse viewpoints as possible can then inherently derive innovation out of inclusion.” For Sun Life, being a City Year sponsor is not only fulfilling an obligation to the community, it is giving us the opportunity to be educated and inspired by City Year’s beliefs about how diversity and inclusivity enhance everyone’s effectiveness.
About the author:
Bob Klein is the Senior Vice President, Multiline & Voluntary Benfits for Sun Life Financial U.S. Sun Life Financial is a proud team sponsor of the corps members serving at Mattahunt Elementary School in Mattapan.
By Alex Loughran Lamothe, corps member serving on the Comcast/NBCUniversal team
I believe the empowerment of women is key to the empowerment of entire societies— and that is as true in Boston as it is around the world. Our students will be the leaders of our future. Here are five women who serve as inspirational role models:
Born Marguerite Anne Johnson, Angelou spent her early professional life as a young mother living in poverty, but she used her incredible creativity and social consciousness to support herself and change the world. She found a creative outlet as a calypso dancer (where she first adopted her famed stage name) and soon gained national acclaim. She became a fundraiser and organizer in the Civil Rights Movement. Her true passion is writing, and her autobiographies like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and poems like On the Pulse of Morning inspired millions of people across boundaries of race, gender, sexual orientation, and class across the world.
Aung San Suu Kyi
As the leader of the opposition of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi committed her life to human rights. She founded the National League for Democracy in 1988, challenging the autocratic military juntas who had ruled Burma for decades. Using a philosophy of nonviolence, her party won the 1990 election. However, the military government nullified the result and put her under house arrest for most of the next two decades. Stripped of her rights, Aung San Suu Kyi retained control of her voice and continued to inspire human rights movements around the world. In 2010, she was given her freedom, and in 2012 was elected to a seat in the Burmese parliament, becoming the official leader of the opposition. In learning about her life, our students can see how Aung San Suu Kyi’s intelligence and calm determination have been critical to the gradual liberation of her people.
Born Gloria Jean Watkins, hooks built her own philosophical perspective on how race, capitalism, and gender intersect in our culture. She pursued a teaching career, and has been a professor of English, African and African-American, and Women’s Studies at several U.S. colleges and universities. She is most celebrated for her own writing, which has addressed systems of oppression in our society and the need to build diverse, loving communities that embrace the widest range of people. Specifically, I recommend reading Teaching to Transgress, which proposes ways that teachers and students can collaboratively learn together and approach societal challenges.
Malala shows that young people can be influential leaders in their own right. Growing up as a young woman in a Pakistani province where the Taliban was destroying schools and threatening communities who formally instructed girls, Malala fought for her right to an education. She became a blogger, sharing her thoughts with the world using a pseudonym. She took on an even broader role in succeeding years, appearing on television and meeting with Pakistani and international leaders, tirelessly advocating for education. In so doing, she was placing herself in incredible danger. In 2012, the Taliban attempted to assassinate her at age 17. Despite the traumatic injury, Malala survived and recovered. She remains as committed as ever to her mission.
Ayanna Pressley is leader who is making waves closer to home here in Boston. She has already had an extensive 16-year political career as an aide to senior U.S. politicians. However, she is more well-known in her own right as the first woman of color to be elected to the Boston City Council as a councilor-at-large, representing everyone living across the city. As a proud resident of Dorchester, Pressley demonstrates the inspirational power that her voice and actions carry, and remind the young women in our city that they can play a defining role.
As we look to the future, we can only expect that the women our students will grow up to be will continue to add to the roster of women change-agents who will continue to powerfully re-shape the world.
About the author:
Alex Loughran Lamothe is a 2013-2014 corps member serving on the Comcast/NBCUniversal team at Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester.
By Laura Stapler, corps member serving with City Year Boston
This student just started reading The Tale of Despereaux and he can’t put it down!
By Ashby Gaines, corps member serving on the Wellington Management team
Kameron* is an 8-year-old magician; only, his tricks do not come from a hat. Kameron has the magical ability to transform a room into a stage and a group of noisy 8-year-olds into a captive audience. In one moment, he has the ability to melt your heart and frustration with a sheepish glance. Kameron’s dynamic persona and many “magical talents” are what make him so special to me. However, these same traits are also what challenge me every day. Because explanations alone cannot possibly do Kameron* the justice that he deserves, I will share one of Kameron’s magical moments from our extended day program.
“Ms. Gaines, look what I have!” Kameron exclaimed holding a ball of putty. As I looked at this ball of putty, my mind began to race with all the magical places this putty could end up: stuck between two pieces of homework, under Kameron’s shoe or in the hair of the girl sitting next to Kameron. As my mind continued to race, I decided it was a wiser idea for Kameron to store this putty in his backpack.
A few minutes later I heard, “Don’t tell Ms. Gaines; she will make me put it away!” from across the room. I approached Kameron and asked what he was holding in his pocket this time. He responded, “Nothing, nothing is in my hand in my pocket!”
So, I asked what he did not want his friend to tell me about.
With a grin and an “Ohhhh mannn,” Kameron pulled out a nightlight. Yes, a nightlight!
Again I asked him to put the item away. As the session continued, more objects continued to appear: a tennis ball, a small toy, plastic connector pieces and so on. Each and every object was pulled from the same pocket, like a magician pulling rabbits from his hat. But with each object pulled from Kameron’s Mary Poppins-esque pocket came more frustration from me. How in the world did he fit five toys in his pocket? What can I do to get him to focus on his homework instead of his toys?
Like I said, Kameron is a magician. He has the ability to test me, but he also has the ability to make me realize that I should not take life too seriously. We are here at the Trotter Elementary School to help these kids succeed in the classroom, and to do our best each and every day. But, we are also here to learn from our students. With every magic trick Kameron performs, I learn more about patience, using imagination, and the important place that laughter holds in each day; and this is Kameron’s greatest trick of all.
* Student name changed to protect privacy.
About the author:
Ashby Gaines is a 2013-2014 corps member serving on the Wellington Management team at Trotter Elementary School in Dorchester.
By Anja Filan, corps member serving on the Bank of America team
Whether it be teaching their classes, conferencing with parents, planning lessons, or meeting with students during lunch and recess, teachers are constantly on the move. Because we all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, what better way to thank teachers than by providing them with a well-balanced, healthy start the day?
Overnight Oats are easy to make and filled with fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and, most importantly, are absolutely delicious! Below is the recipe for this healthy, hearty, and delicious breakfast treat—a perfect entrée for a teacher appreciation breakfast!
Chocolate Cake Batter Overnight Oats
(Adapted from Rabbit Food for my Bunny Teeth)
2 cups whole rolled oats
2 cups almond milk (or milk of your choice)
4 ripe bananas
4 tbsp chia seeds
4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tbsp maple syrup, honey, or agave
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Mix all of the ingredients until blended; then, leave in the fridge overnight. When you take them out in the morning they’ll be a bit more dense and solidified, and should resemble oatmeal. You can either warm them on the stove for 10 minutes on medium-low heat, or eat them cold.
Don’t have chia seeds? Not to worry! You can add flax seeds, hemp hearts, or leave out the seeds all together. Sometimes, I add toasted sunflower seeds, walnuts, pecans or almonds for a little extra protein.
If your school is a nut-free environment, you could substitute dates, figs, or apples! The great thing about Overnight Oats is that variation possibilities are endless. Adding fruits, seeds, nuts, berries, or sweeteners of all sorts will not change the consistency and will allow you to put your own special touch on your breakfast creation!
A strong breakfast packed with protein, carbs, fiber, and Omega-3’s will give your teachers a powerful start to the morning. What better way to express gratitude than providing your teachers with the tools to kick-start their day with some power foods!
About the author:
Anja Filan is a 2013-2014 corps member serving on the Bank of America team at Young Achievers Science and Math Pilot K-8 School in Mattapan.