Some Ohio State graduates participating in a program that aims to help students at risk of dropping out have decided to stick around for another year.
The City Year program was designed to work with students who are at risk of dropping out of school to help them get the help they need to succeed academically. City Year members tutor and mentor students at risk of dropping out and lead afterschool programs. Members also work on school-wide initiatives in hopes of improving schools’ cultures, according to its website.
Pierre Lucien, who received a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs from OSU, got involved with City Year while in graduate school.
“After doing some research, I stumbled upon City Year, an organization which addressed inequity issues and the drop-out crisis in America. Luckily, there was a site right here in Columbus,” Lucien said.
The Columbus City Year partners include Weinland Park Elementary School, Linden-McKinley S.T.E.M. Academy, South High School and Mifflin High School, according to the City Year website. There are 42 City Year members serving in Columbus currently, said Rod Swain, a recruitment manager for City Year.
Through the program, Lucien said he got an idea as to why some students do better than others in certain schools.
“I learned about the unequal distribution of resources that exist in the education system. This renders students from lower socio-economic communities to have less of a chance to succeed and go on to college,” Lucien said.
City Year works with 242 schools across the U.S. with international affiliates in England and South Africa. There are about 2,500 City Year members serving at the 25 U.S. sites, Swain said.
Hope Hill, who graduated from OSU with a degree in communication analysis and practice, is also participating in City Year. She joined after seeing an advertisement for the program.
“I had tutored some kids back home and was a mentor to underclassmen students, so I figured it was a good match,” Hill said.
Hill said she has enjoyed her experience so much with City Year that she has decided to do a second year of service.
“I liked the idea of giving back to my community and serving with students,” Hill said.
City Year is a member of service organization AmeriCorps, which is a federally funded network of programs for Americans. As a City Year participant, Lucien said he has received a living stipend every two weeks for $500. Also included, he said, is health care and a student loan deferral.
Lucien said in order to get these benefits from City Year, he has to work a minimum of 40 hours a week. At the end of completion with the program, which for Lucien will be 10 months of service, he will be eligible to receive an education grant of $5,000.
With the experience Lucien has gained from City Year, he said he hopes to one day to become a policymaker in urban education.
“In the immediate future I hope to further my education with a second master’s and then a doctoral degree, both in urban education leadership and policy,” Lucien said.
Hill said there is no fee to apply to the program and it’s free to participate. She also receives a stipend, like Lucien, for 10 months of service.
She said she’s still trying to figure out what she will do after she finishes her service with City Year, but Hill said the program has trained her in several different areas that she could use later in her career.
“I know how to plan service events with outside volunteers and plan an interaction math tutoring session for a student who needs help with their fact fluency,” Hill said. “I can and have positively impacted the lives of my students forever. You really can’t beat those benefits.”
Jason Phillips, like Hill and Lucien, graduated from OSU and is a participant in City Year. He majored in political science and strategic communication.
Phillips said he became interested in City Year because he knew from a young age he wanted to make a difference in the world.
“City Year has provided me the opportunity to truly make my community a better place. It’s truly been an empowering experience tutoring and mentoring my students,” Phillips said.
Phillips, like Hill, said he decided to stay for a second year of service.
“I came back for a second year because it has helped me gain a lot of professional experience. Not only do I get to see my students mature and grow for a second year, but professionally, I’m maturing by leaps and bounds,” Phillips said.
After Phillips finishes his service with City Year, he said he plans on focusing on nonprofit work.
Swain said he encourages people to join the program because of the benefits.
“It offers an opportunity to gain real world work experience, regardless of major, while earning scholarships for graduate school and making a real difference in the lives of young students across the country,” Swain said. “It also offers the opportunity to be part of a national service movement of young Americans, working to improve the country for future generations.”