Our Favorite Dr. King Quotes

By Laura Stapler

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 20,  corps members serving at John F. Kennedy Elementary School posed for pictures with their favorite Dr. King quotes. Corps members were encouraged to choose quotes that resonated with them personally.The results were inspirational.

mlk quote_darkness cannot drive out darknessWEB

mlk quote_do what's rightWEB mlk quote_ignorance is dangerousWEB mlk quote_measure of manWEB
mlk quote_soul forceWEB
For ideas on classroom and enrichment MLK Day activities to do with your student click here. To find books about this great leader, click here.

What is your favorite quote from Dr. King? Comment below and tell us!

Activities to Celebrate and Honor Dr. King

By Mike Bruffee, corps member serving on the MFS Investment Management team

“The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community.” – Martin Luther King, Jr., December 3, 1956

Photo by ChellieL (flickr)

Photo by ChellieL (flickr)

Every year, as a nation, we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s  legacy with a holiday in his name. Many teachers, parents, and administrators teach the Civil Rights Movement and how Dr. King contributed to the monumental shift in American civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s.

But, how do we do this in a way that doesn’t relegate Dr. King to cliché? Here are five ways you can teach Dr. King’s legacy in a meaningful fashion.

1. Identify Dr. King’s speeches and texts that exemplify his message of tolerance and nonviolence. Dr. King emphasized the “creation of the beloved community,” beyond just desegregation and the right to vote for African-Americans. His dream was profound reconciliation among people who have been in conflict with each other, and nonviolence was a means to cutting through resentment and teaching tolerance, transcendent harmony, and love. Use speeches and texts to explore with students the deeper meanings of Dr. King’s messages. One idea is to listen to an audio clip of Dr. King’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech on Dec. 11, 1964 (found here).

Don’t forget that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message went beyond just “black” and “white.”  He also addressed gender stereotypes, poverty, and privilege. Read up on his influences, from Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi, to his mentor at Boston University School of Theology, Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman.

2. Incorporate service projects into your curriculum. “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.,” Dr. King once said. (This is from his speech “The Drum Major Instinct” in February 1968.) By including community involvement alongside lessons on the Civil Rights Movement, students will understand that Martin Luther King’s message of service is truly applicable in their own lives, today. Students will learn to help and to truly empower their communities through service, and in the process, gain a more nuanced understanding of Dr. King’s message.

“The Drum Major Instinct” sermon can be found online here.

3. Encourage students to learn about other figures in the Civil Rights Movement, not just the most famous ones. This reinforces Dr. King’s message that “everybody can be great, because everyone can serve.” Teach students about the young people who were heavily involved in the movement, such as Claudette Colvin, who was only 15.

4. Use pictures not ordinarily used. One example is this photo of Dr. King being arrested for trying to enter an Alabama courthouse. This image can be used to spark discussions on civil disobedience. Ask students if they would ever choose to go to jail instead of following a law they thought was unjust, and to explain why or why not.

5. Keep the discussion going beyond January; make it a part of daily life at your school, so students can see the relevancy of the Civil Rights Movement to their everyday lives. Gym time can be a great way to teach that anti-bullying and good sportsmanship directly relate to Dr. King’s legacy on tolerance and respect.

About the author:
Mike Bruffee is a 2013-2014 corps member serving on the MFS Investment Management team at Dever-McCormack Upper School in Dorchester.

Sources: Teaching Tolerance (tolerance.org), MLKday.gov, Nobelprize.org, thekingcenter.org

Building Leaders


By Raina Hall, Learning and Development Manager

It may have been snowing on Monday morning, but that didn’t stop excitement from filling City Year Headquarters for Idealism. At 8:30 a.m., 43 corps members began their journey at the New England Leadership Academy (NELA). This three-day academy focused on enhancing corps members’ leadership skills and fosters an environment rich with learning and growth.  Bringing together a select group of corps members from Boston, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, NELA provided a unique and invaluable opportunity for corps members to meet comrades serving at their sister sites. Not only did corps members get to take a step back from service to focus on their own development, they also swapped ideas and activities, which they can take back to and implement on their school teams.

Alex Allen, Regional Vice President of City Year, kicked NELA off by reminding participants that through leadership comes great service. Allen asked the group, “Who has come to realize serving a City Year is more than just serving with students?” Every single person in the room raised his or her hand. A few mentioned that City Year has been a year of more personal growth than they thought was possible.  It’s only been four and half months! Moreover, Allen encouraged corps members to think about what they want to take away from this experience. Taking advantage of every opportunity at NELA wasa must. This was the corps members’ chance to improve themselves, better their service, and enhance their teams.

Here are some of the many bits of wisdom shared during the three days:

  • “Work to be excellent at your current role.” – Bobby Kessling, Regional Impact Director, City Year
  • “Seek out opportunities to work on or display the skills you have.” – Beth Bryant, Director of Strategic Analysis, City Year
  • “Leaders know their beliefs, have the guts to act on them, and empower value to others.”  – Alex Allen
  • “You have to stand up for what’s right even when it’s scary. “– Jeff Davis, Director of Human Potential Systems and Intelligence, City Year
  •  ““As a leader, [you need to] be present, inspire, and have high expectations with high support.” – Stephen Spaloss, Regional Vice President, City Year

The days where filled with leadership panels, workshops, small group discussions, best practice sharing, Idealist Journey reflection sessions, and much, much more. One night, NELA participants built strong bonds at the community night full of games, performances, and good times.

Closing out the three days, Charlie Rose, Dean and Senior Vice President of City Year, brought the academy full circle by having the corps members reflect on what learned. City Year Boston corps member, Emily Griffin, serving on the Deloitte team at Irving Middle School, said, “A word that comes to mind is redefine. NELA has redefined leadership for me…I think it made me realize I can do so much more.”

Not only did NELA participants leave with new perspectives and insights but they also left feeling energized, inspired, and ready for powerful return to service. Tory Corless, a City Year Boston corps members serving on the Summit Partners team at Harbor Middle School, summed up the experience by expressing, “I don’t feel static anymore. I really can change, and it’s only been three days.”

[To see photos from the event, click here!]

Learning Students’ Names

By Gregory Fabry

nametagIt’s hard to believe that Boston Public Schools students start school on Wednesday. (Where did the summer go?) With a new school year comes the responsibility of learning a new set of students’ names and personalities. Learning names early on is important. It shows that you respect that student as an individual and helps make the student feel comfortable, welcome, and cared for. Here are some tips and tricks to help you remember names quickly:

Play a Name Game
My favorite way to learn students’ names is to play a name game. The traditional name game involves a student introducing him or herself and giving a fact or alliteration (“I’m Greg, and I’m bringing grapes to the picnic”) that makes remembering his name easier. The next student repeats the first students name and then says his or her name and alliteration. (“Hi Greg, I’m Celeste and I’m bringing cereal to the picnic.”)

The third student repeats the first two student’s names, then her own, and so on and so forth. This works with smaller groups but tends to get extremely challenging with larger ones. (Whoever is last has to remember all the names!)

Play Another Name Game
One game is never enough. Learning takes practice. Here’s another game that I prefer: Start by calling someone’s name and tossing a ball to him or her. That student catches the ball and then says “Thank you, [insert thrower’s name here].” Then she says the name of another student, tossing the ball to him. The process repeats until the ball has been passed to everybody in the circle.

Stand and Declare
An important facet of City Year culture is “stand and declare.” Whenever you are speaking to a group, or participating in a discussion, introduce yourself to a crowd before you talk. Even if you’re sure everyone in the group knows who you are, we make sure to stand and declare our names. We don’t want to assume that everyone remembers who we are; we never know if someone is struggling to remember our name. This can be incorporated into the classroom relatively easily by having students introduce themselves when they participate in a lesson plan or activity.

Hand assignments back personally
Not only does this strengthen the connection between putting a face to the name, it’s also a good opportunity for verbal praise or feedback. This is also a good opportunity for small talk with the student, so that you can get to know her as an individual. It’s worth the extra minute or two if it helps you build relationships with students and remember names.

Refer to students by name, always
Students like to hear their name said out loud. It makes them feel recognized as an individual, and lets the student know the educator cares for him. Whether you are calling on a student to participate or saying hello in the hallway, make sure to personalize what you’re saying. It not only brightens the student’s day but also solidifies the face-name connection mentally. Repetition helps you learn faster.

Personally, I struggled with this — mostly because there’s always that moment where you fear you’ve used the wrong name. But I had to learn to trust my gut and try. Most of the time you’ll get the student’s name right and they’ll be impressed that you remembered it quickly.

About the author:
Gregory Fabry was a 2012-2013 corps member serving on the Bain and Company team at the Hennigan Elementary School in Jamaica Plain.

How Heroes are Made

By Jonaszen Yao

Photo by Ryan Carraccino, 2012-2013 corps member

Photo by Ryan Carraccino

“Mr. Jonny, can you please remove me from this madness?” a fifth-grader said to me on my first day of service at the Mattahunt Elementary.  At the time, his classmates, who would go on to become students in our extended day program, were playing around in the hallway while he attempted to stand in line properly.

His name is Jeremiah*, and he is a superhero.

Like all great heroes, he has an origin story set in the days before he found his powers within. When I first met Jeremiah, I noted that he was easily overwhelmed. Although he was outgoing in conversations with adults, he became frustrated around his peers, gave up quickly when he met a challenge and openly expressed a sense of low confidence in himself. He would sit on the sidelines during recess out of fear of both looking weak and of losing. His surrender to the slightest bit of stress led him to enter “shut down” mode.

In this mode, Jeremiah would isolate himself away from others, including his teacher, refusing to participate or do work. Silence and solitude became his shell. In order to reach out to him, I brought him out into the hallway and sat with him during these  “shut down” periods. I invited him to speak up about what was bothering him, and after some time, he opened up. While he would then describe vivid stories of vengeance, I allowed him to continue as I gained insight into his very creative mind.

When Jeremiah began comparing his hypothetical actions to those of DC Comics’ Justice League, I felt a surge of understanding. In order to calm his thoughts, we began talking about the motives and actions of superheroes.  I taught him resilience through the Superman—how Clark Kent felt like he did not fit in with his peers but became their protector anyway. Through Batman, I taught him determination. After all the great, but very human, detective perseveres amidst a series of strong villains and difficult mysteries.

As our explorations into superhero mythos continued, I was able to relate every opportunity of growth with the very comics Jeremiah would read. By the end of the school year, Jeremiah, the once self-exiled scholar, commands the respect of his peers. No longer does he give up when faced with an obstacle.

In learning from his favorite heroes, he exhibits a piece of each of them. When a student is misbehaving, he springs to the challenge of calming them before the teacher resorts to discipline. When two classmates have a dispute on the playground, he acts to mediate it.  He performs inspiring speeches to rally the disheartened, his grades have increased and his imagination now focuses on tales of comedy and fantasy, not vengeance. It was a pleasure to watch him grow and a  privilege to have been a part of it.

About the author:
Jonaszen Yao was a 2012-2013 corps member serving at the Mattahunt Elementary School in Mattapan.

*Name changed to protect privacy

Nation Building

By Jonaszen Yao

Country Name: Dragon Island Chief Export: Water from the Fountain of Youth Ideals: Safety and Security for All

Country Name: Dragon Island
Chief Export: Water from the Fountain of Youth
Ideals: Safety and Security for All

Occasionally, students in the Starfish Extended Day program came to homework hour without homework to do.  While we could give them a random selection of worksheets to complete, our City Year team at the Mattahunt Elementary School seized every moment as a learning opportunity. In order to live up to these ambitions, we set up a long-term project combining history, civic learning and writing skills. Our students did not do busywork—they became leaders of nations.

Beginning with a Declaration of Independence from a fictional empire, they formed new countries. Our students worked hard making maps, flags and constitutions for their fictional countries. In doing so, they took the first steps of forming a national identity for their new lands and learned about the organization of governments. They have also built national ideals in the laws they established: “X-Canada” outlawed fighting in its Constitution and “Gravity Falls” made it a national right to live in a large house. When you witness fifth-graders debating each other on whether representative democracy, absolutism or constitutional monarchy is the best way to rule, you know that learning is happening.


Constitution Excerpt: “The people have a right to be respected.” Country Name: Gravity Falls Chief Export: Purest Water in the World Ideals: The Constitutional Right to a Very Comfortable Life

Constitution Excerpt: “The people have a right to be respected.”
Country Name: Gravity Falls

Thanks to the lessons of Mattahunt Bucks as a school-wide currency, the students were familiar with the basic needs of a successful economy. With this knowledge, they chose certain goods from their countries to export so that their governments may maintain themselves. Those goods came in the shape of resources as simple as gold to the wondrous waters of the Fountain of Youth.

What they do with the revenue afterwards is also quite fascinating. We have seen an even split between those who spend their entire nation’s treasury on a defense budget and those that spend it on social welfare. In truth, they would all love to spend it on both, but we enforce the idea that they do not have unlimited funds.

Perhaps it was the joy of building upon what they have already created, but when our students came to Starfish without homework, they did not ask for free time. Instead they ask about the next step in the project. After all, the project was an ongoing one, including assignments to establish their founding stories and foreign policies toward neighboring countries. Beside moving forward, some students even rethought their governments, which have led to mini-lessons about elections, and, in some cases, revolution.

About the author:
Jonaszen Yao was a 2012-2013 corps member serving at the Mattahunt Elementary School in Mattapan.

Teacher Appreciation Week

By Adrian Pio
Adrian Pio is a 2012-2013 corps member serving on the MFS Investment Management team at the Dever-McCormack Lower School in Dorchester.

In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week, our team would like to take the time to thank a few of the teachers with whom we serve:

“I appreciate the dedication Ms. Belford displays with regards to a handful of students in my classroom. She consistently checks in with these students, has meetings with them and activities planned to help them express their emotions, and consistently offers guidance when I am seeking help with my students’ behaviors.” –Courtney Reecer, corps member

“Ms. Galdi is kind and patient with the students, which helps foster a peaceful school atmosphere. Additionally, Ms. Galdi works hard in the afternoons during bus dismissal—a hectic time of the day.” –Ada White, corps member

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Comcast Career Day

By Ben Horton
Ben Horton is a 2012-2013 corps member serving on the Comcast NBC Universal Team at the Burke High School in Dorchester.

Tracy Baumgartner, Executive Director of Community Investment at Comcast, leading a mock interview. (Photo by Elliot Haney, 2013).

Tracy Baumgartner, Executive Director of Community Investment at Comcast, leading a mock interview. (Photo by Elliot Haney, 2013).

On Friday, April 5, Comcast employees and executives joined to provide career-building workshops and training for City Year Boston, City Year New Hampshire and Care Force corps members. As a member of the Comcast NBC Universal team serving at the Burke High School, it was great to know that there is a company who not only believes in young people enough to sponsor our team, but believes that each corps member has something unique to offer the workforce.

“I’m very thankful to Comcast for the resources and expertise they’re bringing. I appreciate their commitment to the corps members,” Program Manager Julia Leb said.

The event featured four workshops: personal branding, interview skills, building your social media profile, and a mock interview. We learned the importance of preparation before interviews, how vital it is to create an authentic and positive personal brand, and the necessity of LinkedIn in today’s technological world. “I really appreciated being able to go through interview skills, have a mock interview, and go through the social media piece of the job search,” Isabel Barros, senior corps member, said.

Casey Brennan, also a senior corps member, agreed. “The workshops hit home on skills that apply to anyone regardless of their plans after City Year.”

The day also was full of a fantastic lineup of guest speakers. With opening remarks by Steve Hackley, Senior Vice President of Comcast’s Greater Boston Region, we were welcomed into a day of professional development. “I hope whatever you do after this is fulfilling and gratifying,” Hackley said.

During lunch, Tracy Baumgartner, Executive Director of Community Investment at Comcast, along with keynote speakers David Shapiro, CEO of MENTOR, and Marty Martinez, the CEO of Mass Mentoring,  dispensed encouraging career advice and answered questions on mentoring, non-profits, and careers in general. Their advice? Be authentic, be aware, and follow your gut.

At City Year we utilize PITWs (Putting Idealism to Work), which are short sentences or phrases that contain some nugget of wisdom to improve our service. There’s something both powerful and convenient about a short quote, something you can recall whenever you need some extra inspiration. I took home a lot of solid career advice from Comcast Career Day, but I also absorbed pithy phrases that will stick with me long after I advance on to the next stage of my career.

When Kevin Riffe, Director of Technical Operations at Comcast, who has worked for the corporation for 35 years, told us to “act with integrity,” it meant something to me. When Tim Murnane, Comcast’s Regional Vice President of Government and Community Affairs, said, “Never say never; Just say not now,” it made me think about widening my job search and expanding my horizons. When Councilor Michael Ross, told us, “When you get to where you’re going and you’ve climbed that ladder, leave the ladder there. Don’t take it with you; leave it there so you can help those behind you continue to climb,” I remembered that my service year wasn’t about me or my professional development—it was about how we would take our experience to find careers in which we could continue to make a difference in the lives of others.

Corinne Ferguson: A Hero Among Us

By Sarah Binning, Communications Coordinator

Copyright 2013 NBAE  (Photo by Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

The crowd at TD Garden quiets as the Hero Among Us takes the court. City Year Boston Board Chair Corinne Ferguson waves at the sea of green and white dressed Celtics fans. As the award is presented, the crowd rises to their feet applauding wildly.

At each home game the Boston Celtics foundation takes a moment to recognize “an individual or individuals who, through their unique commitment and humanitarian spirit, have made exceptional and lasting contributions to our community.”

March 16’s recipient, Corinne Ferguson is no stranger to service. With more than 17 years and 15,000 hours of volunteer experience, Ferguson has been as been a key advocate for bridging the achievement gap and investing in the future of the Boston community. In addition to her role at City Year, Ferguson chairs the board of Pine Street Inn and is an active board member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston. She spoke with us about her experience and what receiving this award means to her.

City Year Boston: Last weekend you were recognized by the Boston Celtics as the Hero Among Us. What was your reaction when you first heard the news?

Corinne Ferguson (CF): Sandra [Lopez Burke, Vice President and Executive Director of City Year Boston] said to me, ‘Have you heard about this?’ I was really interested in hearing who we had nominated and then she said it was me.

I have to say I was overwhelmed and a little nervous. I really don’t feel like I did anything to merit this award, but I’m very flattered, of course, to be nominated in this way.

CYB: Can you tell me what it was like the day of the event? What was it like to stand on center court?

CF: I have to tell you that the gentleman who runs the program at the Celtics, whose name is Matt Meyersohn, is an extraordinary person. He’s the Director Community Relations and Player Development. He does this 40 times a year because they have a Hero at every home game. […] But you would never dream that he does this 40 times a year. He made me feel that I was the only person ever who was getting this award. He was so gracious, so polite, so patient, and so kind. I was actually kind of nervous going out there. But he was so thoughtful and caring that it made the experience even more special.

Being out on the court before the game had started, seeing all the players warming up, I felt very, very small. It’s kind of noisy and fun. Being from the UK originally, it’s a very American thing for me—the organ sounds and the music. I just felt like I was in a dream.

CYB: If you had to pick a favorite moment from that evening, what would you say it is?

CF: This is very vain, but I must say getting a standing ovation, getting that from 18,000 people […] that was a pretty extraordinary experience. But the best part of that was that City Year, we got recognized.

I know our [City Year] team was up there as well, cheering away. I knew exactly where they were. I could feel their energy even though I couldn’t hear them above all the other cheers.

CYB: How has this recognition sparked new conversations or helped you share the news about City Year?

CF: I had text messages appearing on my phone within moments, and emails this week. It was on television as well, which I hadn’t anticipated. I thought it would be a commercial break. But people saw it on television and now they’ve been asking me about City Year all the time.

It’s just been great. I’ve been able to talk about City Year, but also the other organizations as well. Pine Street Inn was incredibly grateful, too…for being mentioned. Some of them were actually there in the audience by chance. They were thrilled. I felt really good about that since it really is all about community.

CYB: What does service mean to you?

CF: Service is really just treating others the way you’d like to be treated yourself, I think. Making sure you care about others, and other issues that are outside of yourself.

CYB: There are so many other service and education organization that you could be a part of, and I know you’re a part of several, but what do think makes City Year unique?

CF: City Year seems to harness the goodness in people and give it the place where it can really be used in a way to help others. It’s really such a wonderful facilitation place. In the same time you’re doing it, it’s such a joy. The people who are doing the good meet each other and feed off each other.

In closing, Ferguson added, “I would really like to say it’s an incredible honor to be part of City Year. It’s been an honor for me and my family for the last, goodness, it must be 15 years or so. We’re very grateful to the organization for their friendship and support. I’m really thrilled about the great work they’re doing for the kids in our country. I’m just very honored to be a part of it.”

Friday Five: Fun Facts for Presidents’ Day

By Ben Horton
Ben Horton is a 2012-2013 corps member serving on the Comcast NBC Universal team at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester.

Photo by dbking (source: flickr)

Monday is Presidents’ Day. To celebrate, I compiled some fun, educational facts about our nation’s Commander-in-Chiefs. Although it should come as no surprise that not only do the Presidents themselves have, on the whole, excellent educations, they also largely commend the importance of education in the broader context of our nation.

1)    Only nine presidents either did not attend or dropped out  of college. (The last President to do so was Harry Truman). Of the rest, Harvard University has the most undergraduate alumni as President of the United States—five in total. Included in this illustrious group are John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. The College of William and Mary comes in a close second with four, then Yale with three and Princeton and West Point each with two.

2)    Rutherford B. Hayes graduated from Kenyon College first in his class, William Taft graduated second from Yale and Franklin Pierce graduated third from Bowdoin. Pierce’s rank is all the more inspirational because he entered his senior year at the second lowest rank in his class, and worked hard to raise his grades.

3)    If you are looking to become President, it seems like going to law school might be a good starting point: Twenty-six Presidents (that’s more than half!) practiced law at some point in their lives.

4)    The Department of Education was signed into law in 1979 by Jimmy Carter. Although an earlier department was created by Andrew Johnson, it was more concerned with collecting statistics than created policy, and was demoted to an “office” in 1868. According to the Department of Education’s website, the current department “is the agency of the federal government that establishes policy for, administers and coordinates most federal assistance to education.”

5)  Presidential wisdom on the importance of education:

“Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. […] The human mind is our fundamental resource.” John F. Kennedy said in a special message to Congress on February 20, 1961.

In a letter to P. S. du Pont de Nemours, April 24, 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”

We hope you have a restful Presidents’ Day and encourage to you to reflect on the importance of education, and both the people in power who have been able to affect great change and those who work on the front lines of education every day.

Alumni Spotlight: Naomi Porper

By Sarah Binning, Communications Coordinator
Naomi Porper was a 2009-2010 corps member who served on the MSF Investment Management team at the Dennis C. Haley Elementary School in Roslindale.

Naomi Porper, CYB alumna

Naomi Porper, CYB alumna

Naomi Porper, Prize Coordinator at Peace First, is no stranger to the belief that young people can change the world. A City Year Boston alumna, she studied economics at Brandeis University. She said her courses often discussed the importance of education equity. “I didn’t just want to address the outcomes of these [educational inequalities]. I wanted to fix the problem and build foundations before the issues even started,” Porper said.

“In the classroom you can talk about injustice and inequity as much as want, but until you’re there in that community, witnessing it firsthand, you don’t fully understand. […] I wanted to put my money where my mouth was and experience it firsthand—see what urban schools were like instead of just reading about them.”

To aid efforts in closing this achievement gap, Porper decided to do a year of service with City Year Boston. The biggest lesson she learned during her year was that “There isn’t ‘good schools’ and ‘bad schools.’ There are good teachers everywhere—and parents who care, too.” Porper said she was thankful to be a part of an organization that works to support and provide additional resources to Boston Public Schools.

Porper said her favorite part of City Year was serving a fourth-grade cohort. “I loved connecting with the students,” she said. “Through City Year I had a unique role of not necessarily being the authority figure. But at the same time, you’re not quite a peer either.” This near-peer component of City Year allowed Porper to successfully mentor and relate to her students.

“Sometimes students just need somebody to listen to them. They just want to be heard,” she said. “I’m not someone who’s going to get them in trouble when they tell me what’s going on in their life. I was there to validate their feelings, and to help them grow as leaders.”

Porper believes that children are natural peacemakers. This passion for youth leadership development drew her to Peace First, a nonprofit organization working to create and support the “next generation of peacemakers.”

“We hear stories over and over in the news about kids becoming more violent. [Peace First is] trying to change that conversation and talk about the positive things kids are doing. I think it’s important to show that kids can really make a difference,” she added.

To recognize young leaders who are leaving a positive footprint on their communities, Peace First is launching the Peace First Prize. “It’s sort of like a Nobel Peace Prize for children,” Porper explained. “We want to celebrate children’s natural capacity as peace makers and to celebrate their achievements.”

Starting this January, they will accept applications and nominations for individuals between 8 and 22 years of age. Applicants will be judged on three main criteria, Porper said: compassion, courage and their commitment to collaborative change. Five winners will not only each receive a $50,000 Peace First Fellowship, but also leadership development opportunities over the next two years.

“We need [you] to be our eyes and ears on the ground. Corps members and teachers are in the classroom and see things that kids are doing to make the community better. They can nominate students.”

“I’m really looking forward to that first application. You know how businesses talk about framing that first dollar. Well, we all keep saying that we’re going to frame that first application—that’s how much this means to us.”

To nominate someone or to apply for the Peace First Prize, please visit their website. Stay tuned to City Year’s blog for a special guest post from Porper this January!

Interested in learning about more CYB alumni?

Friday Five: Gifts that Keep on Giving

By Ryan Carroccino
Ryan Carroccino is a 2012-2013 corps member serving at the Mildred Avenue K-8 School in  Mattapan.

With the holiday season upon us, most of the country is in a panic to purchase the perfect gifts to celebrate the most important people in their lives. Perhaps some of the most unsung heroes in our daily existence are those in the educational community. While giving a holiday gift to a teacher in your or your student’s life is completely optional, educators who do receive gifts typically get the same presents year after year (knick-knacks exclaiming “World’s Best Teacher,” candles, baskets of fruits and coffee just to name a few). But perhaps this year you’d like to honor these educators with a gift that is both unique and useful in their classroom? Here are some ideas for you to consider while holiday shopping:

1.  A subscription to a literary magazine is a gift that will keep giving through the year. Although Reader’s Digest or The New Yorker are some of the obvious choices, there’s a world of possibilities for an avid reader. Consider gifting a subscription to a kid-focused publication that the whole class can enjoy. For example, New Moon Girls is an ad-free magazine with positive content for girls ages 8 and up; another great option is Cricketthe four-time print magazine winner of the Parent’s Choice Award.

2.  A handsome, leather-bound notebook will certainly go over well with an interested writer. I recommend accompanying this gift with a set of pen and ink to get the creative juices going with a touch of class and elegance.

3. Try picking out a great educational game! Classic card and dice games can help students improve their basic math skills. Even mainstream and board games can be educational. Apples to Apples® can be used as to help students understand adjectives. Other options include Cranium®, Boggle® or Scrabble®.

4. Day passes to a museum are gifts that could inspire possible field trip ideas/opportunities for the class. For a Bostonian, a day spent at either the Museum of Fine Arts or the Institute of Contemporary Art can provide a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

5. A long day of work can do much to create a foggy perspective, so keep your gift-recipient’s brain agile with a collection of brain-teasers or puzzles. Books of riddles or crosswords can keep even the trickiest brain on its proverbial feet, not to mention they can be fun and educational time-killers to carry throughout the day.

From the Basketball Court to the Classroom

By Ben Horton
Ben Horton is a 2012-2013 corps member serving on the Comcast NBC Universal team at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester.

Mr. Hugh Coleman (Photo courtesy of Mr. Coleman).

Mr. Hugh Coleman (Photo courtesy of Mr. Coleman).

Mr. Hugh E. Coleman has taught English Language Arts (ELA) in Boston Public schools for ten years. However, teaching ELA was not always his dream; an avid basketball player, Coleman once dreamed of playing professionally, overseas. But Mr. Coleman’s path to teaching began while attending Bowdoin College. There, he decided to enroll in an education class.

Mr. Coleman said he distinctly remembers a passage in a book, which detailed an educator’s experience in a predominately black, urban school where an academically successful student was teased for being “white.” Mr. Coleman remembered thinking, “If doing well is ‘acting white,’ what is ‘acting black?’”

A Boston native, Coleman realized that students from his neighborhoods “needed a positive role model.”

“When I think about where I’m from, many of my friends have not gone on to higher education,” he said. Coleman said he can relate to and understand students who struggle in school. He wanted to show these students that academic success was both possible and necessary, regardless of their race. He stressed that students could be successful without sacrificing their identity or culture.

As a teacher, Coleman tries to show his students the value of a college degree. A 2011 survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that there was an 83 percent income gap between those with a bachelor’s degree and those with only a high school diploma.

For Mr. Coleman, it’s about what he can do for his community—how he can best serve others. “I want to give the students what they don’t have… [to] fill in the gaps.”

Because he is passionate about connecting with youth, Mr. Coleman would like to start his own non-profit life-coaching organization for youth. “I believe that [a life skill’s] class would benefit every other class.” Using his mentoring skills, Mr. Coleman believes he could make an impact by building relationships with kids that make them more mature, dedicated individuals. And those life lessons will help them with whatever path they choose.

Coleman said he believes that City Year plays a role in helping students on the path for success. He added that City Year was “the support teacher’s need.” City Year supports teachers in the classroom, supplementing the lesson with small group tutoring and mentoring. By delivering focused support for the students who need it the most, teachers are able to maintain high expectations without students falling behind.

Addressing attendance, behavior and course performance, City Year helps keep students on track to graduate high school. An education will help position these students to not only do better for themselves, but to use what they have learned, as Mr. Coleman did, to give back to the communities who need their skills the most.