Alumni Find Perfect Fit with City Year

Submitted by Christopher McCauley, Class of 2011

It was a hot and humid day towards the end of July, and I woke up in my un-air conditioned room with a feeling.  I didn’t know what that feeling was, so naturally, I decided to log on to my Facebook page to see if that would help.

And there it was:  a post by the Rollins College Office of Community Engagement:  Hey Alumni!  It’s not too late to apply for City Year Miami.

I thought to myself, well this is interesting.  I had known for a while about what City Year did, but had never considered pursuing it.   I started to get excited, and immediately decided that I would apply.

Then it hit me.  I am in New York, and am not prepared or willing to move to Miami.  This posed a problem.

Wait a minute—City Year MUST be in New York.  I looked on their website.  They are.  And they are still looking for Corps Members.  This was my lucky day.

I read the entire website and immediately knew that this was something I needed to be a part of.  I started and finished my application that morning.  Without hesitation, I called my references, explained to them what City Year was about, and they wrote me two very beautiful recommendations—I am very grateful for that.

For those of you who are reading and wondering what City Year is, I am here to tell you all about this amazing organization.  Under the support of AmeriCorps, and several corporate and private sponsors, City Year works every day to conquer educational problems across America, including poor student attendance, the high dropout rate, truancy, and poor course performance in literacy and math.  In 24 cities across the country (and even in two international cities), Corps Members between the ages of 17 and 24 don bright red bombers and Timberland boots every morning and walk into schools to make sure that off-track students in underserved areas are getting the attention they deserve, the tools for academic success, and the ultimate model for scholastic motivation.  We do this by working with students to support them in class, in focus groups, and even one-on-one. We concentrate on course work, behavior, and attendance.  We arrive every morning to greet them as they walk in the building, and after school, we plan a huge program where we help the students with their homework, and run enrichment clubs based on themes that will benefit their educational and personal development.

Within a week, City Year called me to schedule a phone interview.  I was absolutely ecstatic.  I researched what I needed to know, gathered all of my necessary materials, and when my interview came and went, I hung up the phone after about 30 minutes feeling so confident that I was making the right move by applying for this job, and hoping with all of my might that I would be accepted.

Meanwhile, 300 other young people like myself were preparing themselves to begin a year of service in New York City public schools.  Located in four zones, the group of us is split into teams that serve in individual schools in the Bronx, East Harlem, Long Island City, and East New York.  For those of you who are familiar with New York neighborhoods, you may understand that these areas are known for being rough—high crime, low-income kind of areas.  Naturally, City Year sees the need to help in these areas—this is where the students need us most.

By now you have probably figured out that, yes, I was given the opportunity to be a part of City Year New York, and yes, I accepted this opportunity.  I could not be happier and more excited to be a part of this.  Every day, I go to work just as eager as I did the day before.  So far, being a part of City Year has helped me discover many things—about myself, about education, and about other people—I have been lucky enough to be placed on an incredible and dynamic team, made up of some of the most diverse, interesting, and genuine people I have ever met.  I am discovering the neighborhood known as East Harlem, El Barrio, and finding it to be such an energetic and animated area.

But most of all, I am learning about my students, and how to best support them.  When I walk through the schoolyard, and one of my seventh graders comes up to me and says, “Hey Mr. C., I can’t wait to go to after school!”  Well, I know that I am doing the right thing, and I know that I am already making a difference.

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