City Year: Inspiring the next generation of changemakers

Microsoft is proud to partner with City Year San José/Silicon Valley to help drive our YouthSpark initiative, which aims to bring STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education to youth around the world. Together with City Year, we are working to spread the word about the many learning opportunities that are available to Bay Area youth. Congratulations, City Year Class of 2016! (To learn more about YouthSpark, please visit  ~Thea Nilsson, Citizenship Program Manager – Microsoft

Ocala STEAM Academy students on a field trip with Lucia to Lick Observatory.
Ocala STEAM Academy students on a field trip with Lucia to Lick Observatory.

Growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of education. “Do well in school so you can go to college, and then you’ll be successful… and buy a house for us,” they would chuckle. It wasn’t until serving with City Year, on the Microsoft team at Ocala STEAM Academy, that I understood what they truly meant: education leads to economic mobility, the ability to make the world better for yourself and others.

The last few months of the year have been geared towards college. When I speak to my students about college, I say, “When you go to college…” not “If.” But college isn’t, nor should be, the only focus for students. I don’t want my students to have to wait until college to feel that wonderful yearning for knowledge that drives passion and changemaking. My time in college afforded me great opportunities, but I wouldn’t have known what I wanted to study without the classes I took in high school, and I wouldn’t have been driven to take those classes if it wasn’t for those tireless and loving middle school teachers that built my confidence.

Reflecting on this encourages me to make my service as meaningful as possible for my middle school students. Providing skill-building lessons during school and engaging activities after school builds knowledge and confidence that was so integral to my own success. Two weeks ago during my after school Space Club, I led a “cosmic art” activity that soon became a session of blowing paint bubbles until they popped. The joy that resulted from what was a new experience for many of the students was invaluable. At first I was thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding me- these kids are 12 and 13 and they’ve never played with bubbles,” but it served as an encouragement to share more new experiences with them. Last week, I took the same group of students to Lick Observatory to learn more about the cosmos.

If there’s one thing I have learned from my year of service, it is that programs like City Year are not the one solution to the complex education issues San Jose/Silicon Valley students and families face. City Year has taught me that in order for all students to truly succeed, their entire community must collaborate to serve their needs and celebrate their accomplishments. City Year’s value, Ubuntu, has guided me strongly throughout this year. “I am a person through other people; my humanity is tied to yours.” As I wrap up my year of service, I am hopeful that City Year will continue to expand the support networks for students, inspiring the next generation of changemakers. Because, as my Space Club students have learned, we are all on this small planet together; we must work together to live up to our collective potential and create a better world.



Lucia Calderon is a San Jose native and graduate of UC Santa Cruz. Next year, she will be working for a nonprofit dedicated to creating a safe and healthy food system for children and families in the Monterey Bay region.


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