#ThankYouCorps | Celebrating City Year at San Jose’s Ocala STEAM Academy

March is City Year AmeriCorps Member Appreciation Month, and we’re honored to celebrate our partner school at Ocala STEAM Academy in San Jose. The Ocala City Year team carries through City Year‘s mission to #MakeBetterHappen day in and day out as they celebrate STEM education and inspire students to commit to personal and community improvement. Below, Kristine Pendon, Senior Program Manager at City Year, discusses her team’s responsibilities and impact. #ThankYouCorps!

— Jakob Rosenberg, Philanthropy and Civic Engagement Coordinator

City Year, Ocala STEAM Academy
City Year Ocala STEAM Academy

What does City Year do?

City Year is a national, non-profit organization that seeks to improve graduation rates across the country. We do this in San Jose by carrying out targeted interventions in math and literacy during the school day, and providing academic support with homework and lessons in STEAM curriculum during our Expanded Learning Time (ELT) afterschool program until 6:00 p.m. Additionally, we work with students on improving their behavior and attendance in schools.

What are some standout projects that the City Year team has done in your school?

Within our partnership at Ocala STEAM Academy, the City Year team has supported our school in numerous ways. Most recently our team designed and created the Black Light Maze at Ocala’s Annual STEAM Night, a community event that celebrates our students achievements in various aspects of STEAM, in addition to providing other educational activities.

In ELT, we have implemented whole program curriculum for a week to increase the financial literacy of our students simulating life as an adult where they were provided a profession, salary, and were expected to budget out their living expenses. Our team planned a similar week-long curriculum that exposed our students to engineering and physics by having our students create several different catapults.

The Ocala STEAM Academy City Year team at this month’s Member Appreciation breakfast.

How does City Year impact local students? How does City Year foster innovation in education?

City Year team members help to develop and cultivate a positive school environment where students can feel safe and excited to learn. Our team gives enthusiastic morning greetings to welcome students to school and builds relationships with students during their brunch and lunch times.

At Ocala STEAM Academy, the City Year team has helped to increase student growth in ELA. Among City Year tutoring students, the percentage of students reading at grade level increased from 11% to 70%. Of those same students, 76% of them started below grade level and were reading above grade level at the end of the last school year.

How does City Year reflect the innovative spirit of the Silicon Valley region?

City Year AmeriCorps Members lead and facilitate STEAM curriculum for an hour daily during the ELT Program so our students can foster and develop 21st century skills. STEAM curriculum includes subjects such as coding, aerospace engineering, art, and environmental science.

The City Year team at Ocala STEAM Academy is fortunate to have the sponsorship and support of Microsoft. We have been able to collaborate with Microsoft and host an Hour of Code led by Microsoft employees. This allowed our students to positively interact with engineers, boosted student enthusiasm for coding, and created pathways into engineering for our students.

Last year, City Year team members served as advisors to Ocala teams for the Tech Challenge, a competition held by the Tech Museum of Innovation where students in Grades 4-12th use the engineering design process to solve a real-world problem.

In what ways are the Silicon Valley City Year team contributing to City Year’s commitment to #MakeBetterHappen?

The City Year team strives to #MakeBetterHappen by being positive role models for students and persevering in the face of obstacles in working with students. We believe that by providing the service we do, we can make an impact that will foster personal and academic growth for our students. Valerie is an example of the impact we have in San Jose/Silicon Valley.

Valerie was an 8th grade math student who was testing below grade level. In our Corps Member, Zach’s, intervention, she was always reluctant to show her work and share her answers with the rest of the group. Every time she worked with Zach she would say, “I can’t do this Mr. Zach.” Consistently, Zach would find that her work was always done correctly, and would encourage her to share her answer next time.

It was not until the end of the year that Zach saw growth in Valerie. In their math intervention, they did fact fluency cards with multiplication, and Valerie was yelling out correct answers left and right. The other boys in her group tried to put her down, but she didn’t care. By the end of the year she grew by 350 quantile points and was closer to being at grade level than she was at the beginning of the year.

Stories like these inspire our service, and deepen our commitment to #MakeBetterHappen.

How can we support City Year and local schools?

There are many ways that people can support City Year and the schools that we serve. We ask that you start by being an advocate of education and national service. You can visit a City Year team at a local school, or spend time to learn more about the work that we do and the importance of service. Similarly, you can support organizations like City Year working in community, and appreciate your teachers and school administrators for all their work. If you’re interested in learning more about City Year or supporting our work in schools, please go to www.cityyear.org/sanjose.

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