UC Davis graduates make up the largest proportion of City Year corps members in the Sacramento branch, according to City Year Executive Director Jake Mossawir. The Sacramento branch of City Year, although only in its second year, serves more than 3,000 students in five different schools.
City Year is a non-profit organization that offers tutoring and mentorship to at-risk students in 24 cities nationwide. They work closely with teachers, other corps members and parents to help students succeed in school.
The proximity of UC Davis to Sacramento is a factor in its popularity among UC Davis graduates, according to Anton Taylor, City Year regional director of Diversity Recruitment and Strategic Partnership, West Coast.
“We’ve found that UC Davis students have an unwavering passion for service particularly pertaining to youth,” Taylor said in an email.
Corps members must be between the ages of 17 and 24, and have done some college coursework. Commitments to City Year span the length of a year, with the option to reapply for additional time with the program.
Corps members can apply for post-graduation jobs, study for graduate school exams and “engage in the community outside of UC Davis,” while working with City Year and supporting younger students according to Mossawir.
“For any graduating student, it’s perfect to do when you’re applying to law or grad school. It’s a way to establish yourself as a young professional,” said corps member Evelyn Garcia, a 2012 UC Davis graduate.
City Year determines which students are at the highest risk of dropping out based on three factors: poor attendance, disruptive behavior and course failure.
College-aged students perfectly fill the role of mentor to younger students because they aren’t as intimidating as teachers, according to corps member and 2013 UC Davis graduate, Stacy Liu.
“We provide ‘near peer’ support,” Liu said.
Corps member and 2013 UC Davis graduate, Houston Edwards, found out about City Year at the UC Davis career fair, and his experience with the organization has inspired him to consider a career in teaching.
“[The best part is] having the opportunity to work with the kids and to see them learn and grow,” Edwards said.
While City Year is about helping students, you don’t have to be interested in becoming a teacher to join, Mossawir said. There are other reasons to join the organization.
“[City Year] gives you opportunities. We partner with about 100 universities nationwide who offer tuition reductions of 25 to 100 percent for students who were part of City Year,” Mossawir said.
In addition to monetary compensation, Mossawir believes that working for City Year is fulfilling to corps members.
“If you’re going to dedicate time, energy and resources to something, you need to make sure that it has a measurable outcome,” Mossawir said.
Liu spent a couple of months searching for jobs after graduating from UC Davis, but was looking for something meaningful to do. Liu acknowledges that working with kids can be frustrating.
“It’s frustrating when kids shut down and there isn’t enough assistance,” Liu said. “It seems like the kids always need more help. It’s definitely more than just playing with kids.”
City Year corps members impact the lives of the children that they help.
“We build a strong relationship with the kids, and we become a source of comfort,” Garcia said.
Corps members also benefit from creating strong relationships with the kids that they serve.
“They see you as a leader and it really helps to build your confidence,” Garcia said.
One student confided in Garcia that he wanted to attend Sacramento State College, but then later had issues staying on task with his homework. Garcia reminded him of his goal to attend Sacramento State, and his attitude towards school significantly improved.
“He was listening, he heard me,” Garcia said.
Of the one million students who drop out of school each year, half of them come from only 12 percent of schools, according to the City Year website. The organization concentrates its efforts in communities and schools in which the dropout rates are highest.
City Year was founded in 1988, and currently serves students across the United States, as well as in South Africa and England.
City Year is currently accepting applications for the 2014-15 school year, and interested applicants can apply online at cityyear.org.