The goal of AmeriCorps Week is to bring awareness to the impact national service is making in cities across the country, so AmeriCorps Alums is celebrating by recognizing how leaders and communities have been "Made in AmeriCorps.” By raising awareness of the impact of AmeriCorps, we will also showcase how national service is a viable development pipeline for 21st Century leaders.
By Xia Rondeau
Xia Rondeau is a 2012-2013 corps member serving on the MFS Investment Management team at the Dever-McCormack Lower School in Dorchester.
“Generations Incorporated has built a bridge that brings together our youngest learners and the wisdom and love of grandparents, retirees and interested citizens.”
— Dr. Carol R. Johnson, Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools
City Year is fueled by the power of young people working toward a common goal: to close the achievement gap. Generations Incorporated is fueled by the same goal, however their “man-power” comes from a different group of citizens—senior citizens.
With a focus on literacy, AARP Experience Corps volunteer members from Generations Incorporated are trained in assisting students who are not proficient in literacy. Like City Year, they utilize the benefits of one-on-one interventions while assisting teachers with the entire class, closing the divides between both generations and literacy.
Eva is currently working as a Program Associate at the Dever-McCormack Lower School. She coordinates with the school administrators to determine how the Generations Incorporated volunteer members, some of who are retired educators, can be best utilized by the teachers and students.
During my interview with Eva, a volunteer member named Josephine joined our conversation. Josephine spoke passionately about the organization and its mission. The organization was founded on the belief that “Children will contribute mightily to the happiness, well-being, and sense of community for [older adults].” Older adults sometimes feel disconnected from younger generations, Josephine explained. By working with younger kids, older adults can feel connected again.
The service is mutually beneficial for both the volunteer members and the students involved. Josephine and Eva highlighted how critical the early years are in developing a student’s literacy skills. By the fourth grade, students are expected to process text. Learning transitions toward interpreting written information and extracting meaning from it.
City Year works with students in grades three through nine. We feel privileged to serve in a school where K-2 students are able to receive support from Generations Incorporated. It’s heartwarming to see older folks working with little kids, but it also resonates deeper in our hearts—Generations Incorporated is making a difference in the lives of children and older adults throughout Boston.
Photo and Post By Brad Toney
Brad Toney is a 2012-2013 corps member serving at the John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Jamaica Plain.
On October 4, baseball caps, cowboy hats and colorful crowns made of construction paper decorated the heads of nearly every member of the JFK community. In celebration of the students’ success in following cafeteria behavior rules (aptly named “The CHEF”) the whole school community earned the privilege to wear a hat for the entire day!
CHEF rules were guidelines that the students followed during lunchtime. The acronym prompted students to use Calm voices and to Help clean up trash. It also reminded them that Emergencies were the only times they should leave their seats and to Follow signs and instructions.
In addition, the school held grade-wide assemblies where we honored the students in each class who best exemplified the school’s core REACH values. The REACH values are JFK’s heart and soul; they encourage students to practice daily the fundamentals of companionship and encourage good citizenship:
Principal Waleska Landing-Rivera jovially joined the ceremony and proudly sported a jester’s hat adorned with glowing spheres on each point! The City Year team serving at JFK proudly participated in the ceremony by creating movements to the following cheer:
I reach for success at the JFK,
Treating people with RESPECT every day.
EFFORT, ACCOUNTABILITY: making me the best that I can be!
CONSIDERATION and HONESTY: JFK values helping you and me!
We taught the new cheer and its movements to each class during the assemblies. We look forward to carrying these values in our service throughout the year!
By Sandra Lopez Burke
Vice President and Executive Director, City Year Boston
Today is a special and exciting day for the City Year community – it is the first day of our National Academy (hosted in Boston!) and exactly four weeks away from the arrival of the 2012-13 Boston corps!
More than 800 staff and senior corps members from City Year’s 23 U.S. sites and affiliates in Johannesburg and London are here to prepare for the upcoming service year. Presented by Comcast NBC Universal, National Academy will provide training from national and local education experts, opportunities for sharing promising practices across our network of sites, and sessions to help strengthen leadership skills and establish new connections within the national service community. It is exciting and empowering to spend time with this dynamic group who are committed to serving their country and communities, and the pressure is on as we prepare to lead City Year’s largest corps in history – 2,500 members.
On August 13, 230 first-year members will join the senior corps members to begin their service year in Boston! Here are some exciting numbers for the year ahead:
- The incoming corps was hand-selected from 1,200 applicants, City Year Boston’s largest applicant pool. They have already proven themselves to be ready for the challenges and opportunities that await them.
- This year, 265 idealists will complete more than 450,000 cumulative hours of service.
- City Year Boston AmeriCorps members will support 25% of off-track students in Boston to help them quickly get back on track to high school graduation.
- Corps members will engage thousands of volunteers in transformative service to beautify schools and the surrounding neighborhoods.
For updates from Academy and the service year, follow us online at @CityYear @CityYearBoston and #CYAcademy.
At the Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School, I have been very fortunate this year to have the opportunity to create my own enrichment lesson plans for 8th grade students in our City Year after-school program called We Are The Change (WATC). The best part of making these lessons is finding out what interests our students and us have in common and then tailoring the lessons to incorporate these shared interests. Consequently, we have created several lesson plans this year based on a Health and Wellness theme that have been received very well by our students. In this edition of Top 5, I would like to share my five favorite moments in teaching our 8th graders about Health and Wellness.
5. ‘Health Care Inequalities’ Social Justice Lesson:
At first, we had thought that discussing the issues related to the country’s current healthcare debate would perhaps be too abstract for 8th grade students to comprehend. However, we were wrong. During one social justice lesson where we taught our students about some vocabulary related to the healthcare system, they were already very familiar with how health insurance works. Their attention and focus was surprisingly high after seven hours of classes, and one student even yelled out, “That’s so unfair!” when she learned about some of the inequalities that exist for women in our healthcare system. I feel that the understanding and interest that they showed during this lesson truly attests to the amazing education that they are receiving at Orchard Gardens, even in classes that do not have their own respective MCAS exams, like Social Studies.
4. La Alianza Hispana‘s Sex Education Program:
I would like to give a HUGE appreciation to La Alianza Hispana for their excellently executed sex education program that was incorporated into our after-school lessons during February and March. As awkward as it must be for thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds to learn about safe sex practices, it is very reassuring to know that our students will now go off to high school knowing how to keep themselves safe and healthy and how to advocate for themselves in their future romantic relationships.
3. Field Trip to Whittier Street Health Center:
The interest that our students expressed on our field trip to the Whittier Street Health Center‘s new building was certainly a pleasant surprise for all of us. From industriously taking notes during the tour to having the opportunity to Continue reading
written by Laurie Herschman, Communications Manager, City Year Boston
“Imagine if the idea of service, love and giving were a part of all of our days.”
-Taken from Governor Deval Patrick’s remarks at the Massachusetts Remembers September 11 tribute at the Hatch Shell
In the past week, I – as a staff member of City Year Boston – have had two unique opportunities to share in service, love and giving with the community of Boston.
Last Friday, I woke up early to head to John Marshall Elementary in Dorchester. As more than 150 volunteers from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, the Boston Celtics and City Year Boston arrived at the school’s large playground, the students of the Marshall assembled outside. Soon, voices of welcome, gratitude and excitement greeted the crowd as we heard from the leaders who helped create this large-scale community transformation day.
When the school day resumed, the day of service kicked into high gear. Celtics legends Danny Ainge and Dana Barros helped lead basketball clinics for Marshall students while, in classrooms down the hall, Harvard Pilgrim volunteers created dozens of panel murals to brighten the school walls. Every student at the school started their day of learning by receiving a new backpack full of school supplies, donated by Cradles to Crayons.
Outside, energy remained high as volunteers deployed to paint wall murals, repaint the faded basketball court and create bright playground graphics – four-square courts, race lines and a U.S. map – for the students to enjoy. The finishing touches were put on the Louis D. Brown Peace Garden – a project that City Year and Gillette volunteers had begun several weeks prior – to turn the school courtyard into a vibrant, peaceful spot to learn.
The day came to a close with proud Boston leaders applauding the hard work of the volunteers and calling for more service and the coming together of community members. Civic and business leaders who spoke at the opening and closing ceremonies included: Mayor Thomas M. Menino; Senator Jack Hart; State Representative Carlos Henriquez; City Councilor Charles Yancey; Boston Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson; Principal Teresa Harvey Jackson; Harvard Pilgrim CEO Eric Shultz; Celtics co-owners Wyc Grousbeck (CEO) and Steve Pagliuca; and Celtics President Richard Gotham.
“Often our first reaction is to notice the differences in people. If you focus on all the differences, it’s easy to become indifferent. We can focus, instead, on how we are all connected.”
-Taken from remarks by Susan Retik, co-founder of Beyond the 11th, on Sept. 11, 2011
On Sunday I woke up early again, but this time I made my way to the Charles River Esplanade to support the Massachusetts Remembers tribute. After a briefing on the day’s activities, City Year Boston helped unfurl a huge American flag, made of mosaic pieces created by Massachusetts students in the weeks after the 2001 attacks. The formal tribute began later in the day with the arrival of the Beyond the 11th Bike Ride (Beyond the Bike) from Ground Zero. After City Year Boston helped guide nearly 220 bikers to the finish line, the riders joined a growing crowd at the DCR Hatch Shell for an interfaith ceremony to pay tribute to September 11, 2001 with moving testimonials, poetry readings and music from the Boston Pops Brass Ensemble and Boston Children’s Chorus.
Beyond the 11th was co-founded by Susan Retik who lost her young husband 10 years ago. This past Sunday, Susan explained that after Sept. 11, 2001, she found herself grateful for the support of family, friends and neighbors. Gradually, as she followed media coverage of the war in Afghanistan, Susan found herself asking: “Who supports the Afghan women when their husbands die in this war? Who helps lift them out of despair?” Her response to herself was: “I knew I could help just one.”
Hearing Susan’s message to look beyond tragedy and beyond borders and focus on serving others left me re-inspired to return to work this week with a focus on serving to move myself and others beyond circumstance, beyond possibility and beyond expectations.
Did you serve for September 11? Add your service to our map! In 2009, with widespread support of the 9/11 community and bi-partisan backing, the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act was approved and included formal recognition that led to the establishment of September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. On this day and throughout the year, City Year and AmeriCorps members seek to strengthen our communities and build a beloved community through service. Through the Corporation for National and Community Service, Hands on Network, United Way and other national networks, volunteers from every community in the United States served on September 11, and City Year Boston was proud to support five service projects.
Inspiration is a catalyst that moves individuals to stand up for something they believe in, to make a difference, or to simply keep going. At City Year, the most inspirational moments are often those that reveal the sometimes unexpected ways in which we have impacted the students and communities we serve. Below, senior corps member Brendan Lehan, Attendance and Behavior Project Leader, shares how a chance meeting with students during his commute home was in fact An Inspiring Moment.
Riding the MBTA at six o’clock on a Friday is a festive experience, but it is rarely inspirational. After a busy week of welcoming our new corps members, my senior corps teammates and I were looking forward to our ride home. We were not expecting to find a happy vindication of the work that City Year is doing.
As my teammates and I boarded the Orange Line at Back Bay Station, we found ourselves standing next to a group of four young women, whom we later found out went to the Jeremiah E. Burke High School, one of the schools that City Year serves. The young women were in a great mood and talking animatedly to each other. When they noticed us standing near them, they called out to us, shyly at first, saying that they had City Year in their school and joking with us about “guessing” our names from our nametags. In other circumstances we might never have talked because of our difference in age, but our red jackets were an instant signal that, despite our differences, we would be friendly and caring. Our association with the corps members who had given a year to help and support these young women at the Burke had instantly conferred a certain trustworthiness and approachability upon us.
“I want to be a City Year,” offered one of the young women. Her confidence in City Year and identification with the organization as an option for her future were inspiring reminders of the power of the work that we are taking part in. City Year had connected people of different ages and walks of life and created a perfect end to a week of service.
This week, our senior corps members describe Preparing for the Corps Arrival. The process of preparing not only the City Year Boston site, but yourself as well, is an exciting and busy one. Senior corps members must prepare themselves mentally to lead a brand new corps only weeks after finishing their corps year themselves. The senior corps has set hard to work weeks before the corps has arrived to start the year smoothly and lead the corps to an even more successful year than the last! Blackstone Elementary School Team Leader Jasmin Lopez describes the site’s senior corps and staff reactions to the excitement of the incoming corps.
Just over a month ago, I was at my own City Year Boston 2010-2011 corps graduation. Now, I have set on yet another 10 month journey to help lead a new team as the Team Leader at the Blackstone Elementary School in the South End. Since the beginning of July, we have been preparing and anxiously awaiting the day to welcome a whole new set of young idealists into our City Year 2011-2012 family. It is only next week before the new, incoming corps members arrive on August 15! To assist as a constant reminder that the new corps members are almost here, a group of senior corps members creatively worked together to create a visual display in our City Year Boston office space. On a once blank wall, it now displays many of the senior corps members and staff’s excited faces and expressions to remind ourselves that the day is finally coming! Along with the faces creatively placed on the wall are quotes and sayings that were collected of senior corps members and staff posing, stating how excited are they to begin another powerful year as leaders of the incoming corps and how they are feeling.
Here are some of their responses:
“I can’t wait to meet the people who will be
working with my students from last year!”
“My excitement is like a soda bottle. Every day it gets shaken a little more.
I know exactly when it’s going to explode. And I’m looking forward to it.”
“You gotta define the moment before the moment defines you.”
“Today is the day to inspire.”
“Last year we had one Minnesotan; this year we added two more!”
“SERVICE. All Day. Everyday.”
“I’m more excited than the first time I heard
Rob Bass and DJ Easy Rock’s “It Takes Two.”
“Be the America you want to live in.”
“Motivated! Motivated! Let’s get motivated!”
“Get…PSYCHED!! Alright, all right, all right!”
“You get a corps member! You get a corps member!
EVERYBODY gets a corps member!!”
“Please keep all hands inside the vehicle
because it’s going to be a bumpy ride!”
CityYear City Year
written by Sarah O’Brien, former City Year Boston co-up from Northeastern University
The co-op program at Northeastern allows students to do six-month full-time work experience in their choice field. Usually students do two to three co-ops over their five years. This program allows students to make connections in the real world prior to graduation.
The passion, idealism and dedication that run through this place is truly inspiring.
City Year means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. A life changing experience, a positive direction, a challenge, the list goes on and on. For me, City Year Boston has been way beyond any of my expectations. I’m about to finish up my six months here as one of the seven Northeastern Co-ops and I honestly wish this wasn’t the end. I have loved every second here. I’m sure anyone reading this doesn’t need any convincing that City Year can be life changing, but I honestly think that the connections I’ve made here and the things I’ve learned have further solidified who I am and who I want to be.
I’m graduating from Northeastern in December and hope that my future will include City Year in some capacity. At the very least I will be sure to bring RJ&As (ripples, joys and appreciations), ice breakers, SSSW (Stone Soup Sweet Wednesdays) and spirit breaks wherever I go. I really can’t begin to describe the experience I’ve had here. The passion, idealism and dedication that run through this place is truly inspiring. When I first arrived here six months ago, I read “The Idealist Handbook” as much as I possibly could. I quickly learned I was very “South” with a little “West” and that even though I didn’t have my own bomber, if I ever did get to put on the red jacket, I would be sure not to smoke, jaywalk or swear while wearing it. I also read as many of the founding stories as I could. I think the most relevant to me would have to be ripples of hope:
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” – Robert F. Kennedy, 1966
Even though I was only here for six months, I too made a difference and did my part to change the world. Every person here – corps members, staff and co-ops alike – is putting ripples out in the world and pushing us toward our goal of reducing the dropout rate and helping ensure quality education for all children. Together we can do anything.
Thanks to all for the great six months! I hope to see you all soon.
Last night was a great night of fireworks, music and friends, and got me thinking about another night that sparkled.
On May 26, City Year Boston hosted its 16th annual Starry Starry Night. The event was a huge success thanks to the support and passion of our champions and our charismatic emcees and guest speakers: Lindsa McIntyre, Headmaster at Burke High School in Dorchester, and Ulari, a student at Burke High School. If you were not able to join us, we hope to see you next year! If you were there – have fun looking back at a handful of photos from the night!
All photos: Jennifer D. Cogswell © 2011
Two weeks ago at City Year graduation ceremonies across the country, corps members finishing a year of service took a pledge to be “leaders for life.”
One week from today, 33 idealists will begin a second year of full-time service as City Year Boston senior corps members. These 33 young adults are jump-starting their lifelong leadership with a second year dedicated to leading in-school teams, recruiting applicants, refining programs and engaging champions, family and volunteers in City Year’s mission.
Late last summer, the 2010-2011 seniors corps – then beginning their second year of service – created this video to share why they were each moved to serve:
This powerful video prompted a video response by a small group of 2010-2011 first year corps members who were just starting their City Year Boston service:
Interestingly enough, 9 of the 17 corps members in this video, as well as the video editor, are returning next week as senior corps members. Just coincidental foreshadowing, or a sign of the leadership and enthusiasm to come?
To become a City Year corps member takes a remarkable level of idealism, passion and courage. Those who are chosen to become senior corps members embody what we call the skills of idealism: The ability to imagine, recruit, transform and inspire.
Good luck to our recently graduated senior corps, and to the 33 men and women who will show up for service next Thursday: Dust off your Timberlands (okay, maybe there’s no dust after a three week break) — and get ready to give another year of spirit, discipline, purpose and pride. We can’t wait to see you again!