City Year is “Fired Up” at 25!

By Andrea L. Taylor, Director, Citizenship and Public Affairs, North America, Microsoft

“Every 26 seconds a student gives up on school in America,” according to City Year. Compelling evidence indicates that turning around just one low performing high school in a community has the potential to yield a $23 million benefit to society annually.

Last Thursday in Boston, City Year’s founding community, the 2014 In School & On Track National Leadership Summit was convened to review current work to address this challenge in 25 U.S. cities and international affiliates in the United Kingdom and South Africa.  This annual event generated a series of provocative, targeted conversations about the current impact of City Year in 242 partner schools with more than 2,700 City Year Corps members serving schools that enroll more than 150,000 students. Microsoft YouthSpark is a proud sponsor of the City Year national program with an emphasis on math skills training and targeted employee engagement in New York, Washington, DC, Chicago and Seattle.

City Year’s ongoing Long Term Impact goal to dramatically increase the number of students on track to graduation remains the highest priority. Blueprints for Local Impact were introduced as the next stage of the strategy involving work with School District leaders and other stakeholders to develop highly localized multi-year plans.  In addition, the Blueprints for Local Impact will allow City Year to follow cohorts of students from elementary through high school to help ensure that the most at-risk students achieve success in school and beyond.

An ambitious 25th Anniversary Campaign was announced with a goal of raising $150 million to support strengthening national capacity to deepen impact and to increase local City Year programs nationwide. CEO and Co-Founder Michael Brown proudly announced that $118.9 million has already been pledged to date to provide the resources for scaling to new cities and sustaining these programs to address the nation’s high school graduation challenge.  Further details about City Year’s National Plan are expected in August to reach projections that would allow City Year to grow to 12,000 corps members in 1,100 schools, serving 800,000 students annually by 2020.

The 25th Anniversary Gala held at the Boston Pops in Symphony Hall was an inspirational celebration and capstone marking City Year’s quarter century of service.  Corps members in their trademark red jackets and chants about being “Fired Up” contributed to a wonderfully supercharged environment! 

President Bill Clinton was honored with the 25th Anniversary Legacy Award for his ongoing support of City Year and as the founder of Americorps, the innovative national service program that has provided one billion hours of results-driven service by more than 830,000 men and women since its founding 20 years ago.  Also participating in the festivities was Wendy Spencer, CEO, the Corporation for National and Community Service that manages Americorps and includes service programs such as City Year and Teach for America. Clinton’s belief in the power of diverse, idealistic young people to change the world was amplified in his remarks and shared with the enthusiastic audience of donors, staff, alums and friends.

Harper Hill, City Year Los Angeles Board member, author and actor added to the evening program, along with performing artist Judith Hill.  The Boston Pops Orchestra, wearing the cherished City Year red jackets and led by Keith Lockhart, presented an eclectic program from Beethoven to the Beatles. City Year’s focus on attendance, behavior and course performance appears to have a bright future ahead with a spectacular kickoff as they move toward a half century of unique service to help students and schools succeed.