Inspired by the service experiences they’ve had at Hobart and William Smith, four seniors will continue the path of giving back as the newest members of AmeriCorp’s City Year program following their graduation in May 2015.
For the 2015-2016 school year, Devon O’Brien ’15 and Natalie Singer ’15 will serve with City Year in Boston; and Chavon Thomas ’15 will be serving with City Year in Jacksonville, Fla. The students will begin their commitments in August 2015, with a one-month training session prior to the start of the academic year.
The students are joining the ranks of many alums who are or have served with City Year. A program of AmeriCorp, City Year is a nonprofit national service organization that strives to improve classroom environments and encourage the educational advancement of youth by providing community-based projects. The program aims to bridge the gap between the support that students in high-poverty communities actually need and what their schools provide.
For Singer, it was this structure – working to improve the existing system – that drew her to the program in the first place.
“I really wanted to do something meaningful and not just go right to graduate school,” says Singer, a sociology major with a Hispanic studies minor. “I looked at a bunch of programs, such as Teach for America and the Peace Corps, but the City Year model seemed really sustainable and useful to me. City Year is working within the school system that is already in place and helping to add some extra support to make the school day a little more fun and appealing to the students.”
As City Year members, the four will spend 11 months serving hands-on with a small group of students to provide classroom support and assistance, after-school help and mentorship for students. The organization’s long-term goal is to ensure that students reach 10th grade on track and improve graduation rates across the country. They all say they’re looking forward to mentoring their students and making an impact on their student’s lives.
In addition, effecting positive change and fighting injustices is also a driving force. After their service learning experiences and coursework at HWS, which range from America Reads and volunteering wth the Boys & Girls Club to their coursework, the four students say City Year is a way to take action. Singer says that a course on juvenile delinquency brought her attention to social inequalities within the justice system.
“Many of these problems stem from children dropping out of school and schools not being a safe and productive place for children,” Singer says. “I would like to do my part to change this.”
Like Singer, Thomas says a course on education inequality “compelled” her to work to correct the injustices within the education system – something she says she will have the chance to do as a City Year corps member.
O’Brien, a psychology major, completed the Summer of Service internship through Center for Community Engagement and Serving Learning this past summer in which she was placed at the Boys & Girls Club of Geneva Teen Center.
“What I’m looking forward to most is taking what I’ve learned from HWS and the Geneva community and applying it to a completely different population,” says O’Brien. “HWS’ emphasis on community engagement really has had an impact on me as a person, and I know my experience with City Year will be equally as inspiring.”
With their acceptances to City Year, the four will be among 137 HWS alums who have served under AmeriCorps programs. Additionally, O’Brien, Singer and Thomas were three of 13 HWS City Year applicants, the second-highest number of applicants among all colleges and universities in the northeast.