With 760,000 students dropping out of school in the U.S. per year, it’s imperative that children around the nation have more role models and mentors to be used as an influence and inspiration to stay in school, work hard, and succeed. This is why City Year Americorps chooses a group of charitable young people each school year to link up with students to make a difference in various inner-city communities. The program, which pays participants and helps them hone skills applicable to their future careers, is currently accepting applications for full-time corps members.
City Year corps members must be between the ages of 18-24 and serve for one year before, during, or after college. There are 292 schools in 27 cities that members may be placed in. Participants will play an instrumental role in helping elementary, middle school, and high school students graduate — all by serving as tutors, mentors and role models.
City Year alum Jarred Davidson, a young man from an upper-middle class neighborhood, was sent to Mastery Charter School Shoemaker Campus in Philadelphia from 2011-2012 and had a very memorable experience as a corps member.
“After college, I was applying to grad school, but I wanted a year in between graduating and going back to school, so I figured I could find a program to give back,” Davidson, who was 22 at the time he was in City Year, tells rolling out. “I worked with the 9th graders and I was one of two corps members for that grade. My duties included the after school program. I was like a teacher’s assistant.”
Corps members’ days start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Within that time, members can be expected to discuss their plans for the schoolchildren with other corps members, assist children with their schoolwork, develop a mentoring relationship with students, and more.
“You have to build a rapport with the kids so they can trust you,” Davidson advises. “Understand the things they like talking about. I would talk to them about music [and] sports. There was a girl I worked with who had behavioral issues, but she would only talk to me. I was the only person who could calm her down, and I would say, ‘Hey, why don’t we try doing this?’ Build a rapport with them early.”
As scholars and prospective professionals, corps members can be taught skills that will be useful when entering their respective job field. For instance, Davidson says being around his co-workers taught him how to work well with others. He also gained valuable connections that helped him with the next step in his life.
“I was applying to law school, and I met a corps member whose dad was a lawyer. I contacted her dad, and he ended up helping me out a lot. The people who I talked to at City Year were always a big help, whether it was them or their family members. I wouldn’t have known these people without City Year,” Davidson explains.
City Year also comes with many other benefits. While corps members must find their own housing for the year, the program gives each participant a $564 bi-weekly stipend. Members also receive basic health coverage and are eligible to receive an award of over $5,000 to pay off student loans or use toward future schooling, along with eligibility to receive scholarship money.
Davidson says that the best way to show recruiters that you want to be a part of the program is to “come into the interview showing that you’re open to trying new things.” But he says that once you’re in, it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind.
“Once you’re in the program, keep in touch with a lot of the people. You never know how that will help you in the future,” he suggests. “[And] be open-minded, [because] a lot of the skills you will learn are transferable.”
Davidson says that a variety of different personalities have a shot at becoming a City Year corps member. But he explains that the characteristic one should posses that will make the experience run most smoothly is knowing how to put the needs of the students and the team before individual interests.
“Anyone can benefit from the program,” Davidson says. “But if you’re willing to be humble, that’s a good person for City Year.”
To learn more about getting involved in City Year, click here. The application deadline is April 30.