City Year helps kids succeed in, out of class

By Emily Ballard

City Year, a service organization which stretches from Los Angeles to Miami, undertakes a daunting task.
They serve nearly 250 of the nation’s highest need primary and secondary schools. City Year’s goal is to keep kids in school and helping them succeed in and beyond the classroom.

One million students drop out of school each year in America, according to One million students every year never get to fully experience a college football game, campus dining halls or blue book examinations.

Marnee Grant, senior regional recruitment manager for City Year, said he is excited for Baylor students to get involved with the organization. The next application deadline is Feb. 15 and prospects must be able to make a 10-month commitment starting in late summer. Grant said three Baylor graduates currently work in the corps with City Year.

“The mission of Baylor and what we’re trying to do are really close,” he said. “I definitely know what kind of talent comes from Baylor. We just want more of them.”
The organization hires young people between the ages of 17-24 to work in these schools as corps members. The duties of a corps member range from tutoring students in English or math to leading student councils and after school activities and helping teachers in the classroom.

In the application process, a prospective corps member can request to work at a specific site or city, a particular region or opt to serve where the need is greatest. Grant said applicants have a fair shot of ending up in the preferred area.
“The chances are pretty good, about 80 percent,” he said.

The City Year program focuses attention on students in grades three through nine. Grant said the hiring team considers prospective corps members’ preference for a particular age group in the application process.

If the hiring team approves the application, the next stage is an interview, which can be conducted through phone or in person, Grant said.

Accepted members will receive a stipend for their service. Katharine McCune, City Year’s admissions operations manager for the Florida region, said the dollar amount may vary a little from region to region. For all Florida locations, including Miami and Orlando, the amount received is $564 every two weeks, she said.

Because corps members help in the planning of school activities, their start date is usually earlier than each school’s start date. McCune said corps members start full-time on July 28 in Florida.

Grant outlined the type of person who would make an excellent corps member.
“They definitely have to be passionate about education, about this type of mission,” he said. “Also, seeing the positive when faced with challenges.”

Being humble, energetic, relatable to students and diligent in the face of problems were among the most important traits for a corps member, McCune said.

“We don’t have a cookie cutter mold they need to fit into,” she said.

Although corps members have the potential to make a positive difference in the lives
of the young students, they will likely face obstacles and frustrations, Grant said.

“The number one challenge would be not seeing the impact of their work instantaneously,” he said. “It’s a hard pill to swallow. Also the challenge of getting administration to understand our goals. Sometimes we are working with very tenured teachers.”

He said that some teachers do not want to change their ways, which sometimes conflicts with the goals of City Year, but the program members work to build a trust relationship with the teachers.

Grant said a young person interested in joining the corps do not have to be education majors. In fact, education majors have no advantage over applicants with other majors, he said.

“We are education and profit focused but open to all majors. We get folks with engineering degrees and sociology degrees,” he said.

McCune said while a high school diploma is the minimum education a corps member must have, City Year welcomes college students and college graduates. She said they join forces and work together as a team.

“It’s really neat to see that education diversity,” she said.

Grant said he has seen creativity and success in the after school programs that corps members designed and led, one of the most memorable being a film club.

“It was a great chance for students at that school to get a hands-on experience with film and producing,” he said.

At another school in San Antonio, a corps member extended a branch of Girls Inc., a nonprofit organization designed to instill confidence in all girls, as mentioned in Grant said the program resulted in significant behavior improvement at that school.

“I think that was a huge way to influence,” Grant said of corps members’ capacity to directly impact students.

According to, San Antonio is the only city in Texas involved with the program, but this is likely to change in the near future. Plenty of schools in other regions of the state are in need of the kind of services City Year provides.

“We would like to be in Dallas and Houston in a few years. Those are definitely on the radar,” Grant said.