Inspired by the service experiences they’ve had at Hobart and William Smith, seven seniors will continue the path of giving back as the newest members of AmeriCorps’ City Year program following their graduation in May 2015.
In August, seven graduates of the Classes of 2015 will begin their commitments with City Year, a program of AmeriCorps that strives to improve classroom environments and encourage the educational advancement of youth by providing community-based projects. After a one-month training session prior to the start of the academic year, Mary Doran ’15 and Katharine McCall ’15 will begin their service in San Antonio, Texas.; Devon O’Brien ’15, Jacob Price ’15, Natalie Singer ’15 and Peter Weeks ’15 in Boston, Mass.; and Chavon Thomas ’15 in Jacksonville, Fla.
They join the ranks of many alums who currently serve or have served with City Year. A program of AmeriCorps, 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 wanted to do something meaningful and not 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.”
“My time at HWS has opened my eyes to civic engagement and the importance of giving back,” says Doran, who adds that her interest in participating in an AmeriCorps program has also developed over the past few years. “Mark Gearan and several speakers he brought to campus made me realize that I can and want to make a difference in the lives of others. Through my interest in AmeriCorps I began researching various programs and came upon City Year. I was interested in City Year because of the close interaction and relationship developed with the students. I enjoy working with students in small groups as I am a camp counselor and have tutored during my time at HWS.”
Doran, a media & society with a minor in English, anticipates that “City Year will build on my understanding of various cultures and my desire to make a difference that HWS has instilled in me. I strive to live my worlds of experience, lives of consequence through engaging with youth and inspiring them to continue their education.”
“It’ll definitely be a challenge,” says McCall, an anthropology major and minor in the sacred in cross cultural perspective. “I’ve always loved anthropology but I never connected it to teaching. But I took a class my senior spring — ‘Urban Politics and Education’ — which was so relevant and interesting and prepared me for a lot of what I’m going to do at City Year.”
As City Year members, these seven recent grads 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.
The new City Year members from HWS all say they’re looking forward to mentoring their students and making an impact on their students’ lives, effecting positive change and fighting injustice. After their service learning experiences and coursework at HWS, which range from America Reads and volunteering with the Boys & Girls Club to their coursework, City Year is a way to continue that social 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,” she 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, these seven graduates will be among 137 HWS alums who have served under AmeriCorps programs.
Additionally, these grads were seven of 13 HWS City Year applicants, the second-highest number of applicants among all colleges and universities in the northeast.