Serving as a City Year student success coach
Earlier this year, we sat down with several City Year Los Angeles AmeriCorps members and alumni and asked them two questions: what does service mean to you and how do you describe your work as a student success coach?
Their answers revealed a range of experiences, highlighting the joys and challenges of supporting our students and school communities.
This school year, nearly 2,000 young adults are serving with City Year as AmeriCorps members in hundreds of schools across 29 U.S. cities. They serve as student success coaches, partnering with classroom teachers to provide students with one-on-one academic tutoring, small group instruction, social and emotional skill building and engaging afterschool programming.
Most of all, City Year AmeriCorps members build positive, consistent and trusting relationships with students and adults in schools, helping students to learn and build confidence and enhancing the whole school culture and climate.
Here’s more about how current corps members and recent alums describe service and the lessons they’ve learned along the way:
What it means to be a student success coach
“Three words I would use to describe CY’s experience: impact, support, and inspire,” says Nathalie Yol-Aldana (Los Angeles ’22) and current UCLA DCAC College Advisor Fellow. “Sometimes small things we do impact the lives of our students. Whether it’s advice or just helping them out with their work, getting to know what they’re passionate about outside of school–sharing that interest can go a long way.”
“The three words I would use to describe myself as an AmeriCorps member are: mentor, role model, and most importantly, a friend,” says Jazmine Ennis (Los Angeles ’22, ’23).
Because City Year AmeriCorps members are ages 17-25, their “near-peer” status means they are uniquely positioned in schools—young enough to relate to students’ perspectives but mature enough to offer guidance and serve as role models.
AmeriCorps members receive training and support in building positive “developmental relationships” with the students they served, relationships that are sometimes described as helping students be and become their best selves.
Explore the five elements of developmental relationships.
“A major and favorite part of my role is working in afterschool programs because I get to engage with my students more and talk to them about their day,” says Destiny Martinez (Los Angeles ’22). “And they’re generally open, honest, and willing to be themselves.” Hear more from Destiny below.
Some schools don’t have the resources to offer afterschool enrichment opportunities, so when City Year AmeriCorps members can provide that additional service, they’re helping to make those learning environments not only more fun, but also more equitable.
Why do City Year AmeriCorps members serve?
“I became a student success coach because I wanted our students to know that there’s someone out there that believes in them, cares about them, and wants to see them succeed,” says Kurcel Joseph (Los Angeles ’18, ’19).
Some of our current corps members say they were inspired to join City Year because they had a corps member in their classroom when they were growing up. Watch this short video that reunites Eric Santos (Providence ’22) with his mentor, Chen Zhang (Providence ‘12, ‘13).
“I serve because I want to be able to help young students find their passion in life,” says Nathalie Yol-Aldana. “I want to be able to support students because I didn’t have a program like CY when I was growing up. And I want to be the person to support the students.”
Lessons learned from a year of service with City Year
Serving in schools as a student success coach is rewarding but also challenging, and you’ll inevitably face some tough moments.
As an AmeriCorps member, you’ll rely on your teammates and the relationships you build with your partner teacher and your students. And just as your students are learning and growing throughout the year, you are, too.
“One of the skills I learned during my year of service was patience. My students taught me to slow down, think, and take one step at a time as I was supporting them,” says Kurcel Joseph the Associate Director for Civic Engagement and Milestone Events at CYLA.
“I also learned a lot about empathy. Many of my students were going through tough times, and I was too. I could put myself in their shoes and support them in that capacity.”
As diverse as City Year’s corps is, successful student success coaches share three important attributes:
- Relationship building
- Growth mindset and resilience
“City Year has helped me a lot with my own confidence,” says Joseph Argudo (Los Angeles ‘22, ’23). “I tend to second-guess myself, but my experience has taught me that I should just “go for it,” and to accept that not every single detail will be within my power to control.”
Most of all, the simple act of showing up for students every day and being a consistent, positive and trusting presence in their lives may be the biggest contribution you make as a student success coach. Those small moments actually seed much larger transformations.
“I have learned to listen to understand instead of listening to respond because sometimes students just want someone to listen to their feelings and empathize,” says Jamie Lee Cristobal (Los Angeles ’22), serving a second year at Hollenbeck Middle
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