City Year’s six areas of impact
City Year’s work today: supporting students and future leaders
City Year has existed for nearly 35 years and over time we’ve evolved. While our goals remain the same and we continue to invest in supporting students and the young adults who serve with us, our areas of impact have expanded. Today, they include supporting educators in systemically under-resourced schools, equity-focused research and policy, and systems change.
As a youth-focused organization that partners with and learns from the communities we serve, we’ve evolved and grown since we launched in Boston in 1988. Our belief in the power and potential of young people to change the world has never wavered. But, as an organization committed to continuous learning, the ways in which we and our partners seek to make an impact are different today and will continue to adapt.
Our beginning: Spreading national service
From our earliest days, City Year has recruited diverse young adults who build positive relationships as they serve communities. Initially, corps members served across a wide range of areas—from beautifying parks to working with children to supporting public health campaigns. By contributing to and learning about the communities they served and by working together in teams with peers from different backgrounds, corps members developed important leadership, social-emotional and professional skills that helped them prepare for their next step, whether it be postsecondary education or career. We sought to promote engaged citizenship and spread the concept of voluntary national service as a rite of passage for young Americans.
City Year is proud to be part of the inspiration for the creation of the federal AmeriCorps program in 1993. Through AmeriCorps, more than 1 million Americans have helped veterans and their families to readjust after deployment; taught children to read; fought forest fires; and aided recovery efforts after major disasters such as hurricanes.
Our focus: Serving students and schools
We turned our focus to serving exclusively in schools over 15 years ago, recognizing that our AmeriCorps members, as near-peer tutors, mentors and role models, were uniquely and powerfully positioned to partner with classroom teachers and support students throughout the school day. Again, a focus on building positive relationships—with educators, students and the whole school community, and within diverse teams of AmeriCorps members—shaped and inspired City Year’s work. We served where we were most needed—in under-resourced public schools that serve large numbers of students of color and students growing up in lower-income households—young people who too often are placed furthest from opportunity.
From our roots in youth development and service, City Year has understood that supporting students means taking a holistic approach—developing tools and techniques that help children and young people to thrive academically, socially and emotionally. With our school partners we launched our Whole School, Whole Child® services that are grounded in both research and our own experience serving in hundreds of public schools.
In recent years, we’ve applied research from the science of learning and development and studies on City Year’s approach to build out a more robust, defined model and description of City Year AmeriCorps members as student success coaches (SSCs). Student success coaching better conveys the holistic nature of the support corps members provide and training they receive. We want SSCs to be recognized as an important part of healthy, equitable school ecosystems and replicated beyond districts and schools that are directly part of City Year’s network.
Today, City Year recruits diverse young adults from all 50 states to serve students and schools as AmeriCorps members across 29 U.S. cities.
City Year’s goals and impact
As City Year works to deepen our impact, our dual goals have been further honed: to advance educational equity by serving students who are furthest from opportunity and, through national service, to support the next generation of diverse young leaders who can work across line of difference to strengthen our nation.
Today, we advance our goals through six program areas as we work to ensure our students and young people have the tools, experiences and skills they need to succeed in whatever path they choose.
How City Year seeks to advance educational equity:
- Influencing education policy
- Innovating school design and improvement (including supporting adult practice in schools)
- Delivering and refining holistic student support services
How City Year seeks to support diverse leaders:
- Growing national service
- Developing diverse and equitable pathways into teaching
- Supporting the professional development and talents of our corps and alumni
Research + practice + policy = system level change
Today, we’ve evolved from primarily a front-line service nonprofit to a research and practice and policy organization seeking to make systems-level change.
Direct service remains at the heart of our work and informs both our equity-focused research and learning agenda and our broader policy objectives, such as our innovative teacher residency program, student success coaching, the Network for School Improvement, and the National Partnership for Student Success.
City Year has continued to learn from our deep partnerships and collaborations, from our AmeriCorps members and school partners, and from science and research about how young people learn and develop. We understand more about systemic injustices that keep millions of students away from opportunities, learning environments, and resources that can help them reach their potential—and how, working together, we can address these deep-rooted educational inequities.
Creating conditions that enable young people to thrive
Ultimately, the expansion of our value proposition to six areas of impact is an intentional effort, rooted in what we’ve learned over many years, helping to create the conditions for all young people to learn, develop, and meet their potential.
We believe a combination of direct supports for students, AmeriCorps members and professional educators, combined with talent pathways for young people, strengthens and diversifies our workforce and communities.
More than half of City Year’s alumni currently work in the education sector, and we are expanding teacher pathways designed to help the profession become more equitable, diverse and stable. City Year and our partners also help to provide communities with skilled young adults across a wide range of professions, as many alums chose to remain in the city where they served as corps members, contributing to local economies and civic life.
City Year advocates evidence-based policies that create thriving learning environments in our most systemically under-resourced schools; promotes school design innovations that improve teaching and learning for everyone in the schoolhouse; and helps to expand access to national service. Through these areas of impact, City Year can better contribute to meaningful, sustainable system-level change.
What we’ve learned over three decades has reinforced our commitment to a holistic approach for student success. Our journey has renewed our commitment to help nurture the next generation of leaders and changemakers—City Year AmeriCorps members, the students we serve every day, and as of 2023, 40,000 alumni who continue to make a positive impact where they live and work.
Connect with us to learn more about City Year or consider applying to serve with us.
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