Every morning, I proudly put on my City Year red jacket to greet students at Chicago’s Johnson School of Excellence. City Year AmeriCorps members give morning high-fives every day to encourage students to be the best version of themselves at the start of each school day. In return, their smiles remind me of the importance of my role as a full-time tutor and mentor in Chicago Public Schools. As someone who grew up in Chicago, it brings me joy and honor to serve my community through mentorship and tutoring. AmeriCorps members, serve many under-resourced schools, and at-risk students rely upon us to provide assistance, including dropout prevention. This experience has been a roller coaster ride, but I wouldn’t change it for anything because I know my relentless commitment and dedication to service as a member of AmeriCorps, a civil society program for national service, is making a change in my community.
March is City Year AmeriCorps appreciation month for members and alums, as well as a time to thank AmeriCorps and City Year community partners. It is also a time to celebrate that national service and AmeriCorps programs have long enjoyed bipartisan support. We reflect on and celebrate this record, but also recommit to serving others.
Dedicated to Serving America’s Schools
AmeriCorps has played a vital role in starting up valuable organizations such a Public Allies and Teach For America. In addition, the value of AmeriCorps programs such as City Year and Big Brother, Big Sister cannot be understated. The resources that AmeriCorps provided to them have been paramount to the success of all these organizations. Considered by many to be the domestic Peace Corps, AmeriCorps was created by President Clinton and signed into law as the National and Community Service Act of 1993 and is overseen by The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). CNCS’s predecessor the Commission on National and Community Service was established by the National and Community Service Act of 1990 by President George H. W. Bush. Since its inception, AmeriCorps has deployed over 1 million members at 26,000 unique sites, where more than 1.4 billion hours have been spent in service. Specifically, City Year Corps members serve as tutors and mentors to at-risk students in public schools. City Year follows specific model called "whole school, whole child," where we focus on the ABC’s or attendance, behavior and course performance. This includes the planning and execution of events such as family engagement nights; where we invite parents and students to a fun-filled night of academic themed games, activities, and of course food. One of the many ways we acknowledge the growth of students is through quarterly events that we call “VIP Lounges,” where we organize private parties for those who have made steady improvement in regards to their attendance, behavior and course performance.
A Sense of Hope and Community
City Year AmeriCorps members are important to our communities as communities are depending on the services that we provide. Sometimes the work that AmeriCorps members perform serve as launching pads to getting community members involved in the very communities they have grown up in. My work with City Year has allowed me to give back to my community in numerous capacities and to provide a sense of hope and community. The work my peers and I do is vital to the communities and students we serve. My experience as a corps member has been extremely rewarding. In addition to tutoring and mentoring students, my service with City Year as an AmeriCorps member has allowed me to participate in the beatification of two of the largest high schools in Southside Chicago, William R. Harper High School and Marie S. Curie Metropolitan High School. These types of projects are important as they allow our students to enter facilities that are now even more conducive to positive learning environments. The continuous visible impact provides affirmation that I made a great decision for my career path when I joined City Year Chicago as an AmeriCorps member. It has strengthened my commitment to education. Now, I want to work to ensure that quality public education is available in all zip codes and to all students. In honor of all those serving the students and communities of America, Happy City Year AmeriCorps Appreciation Month!
Antonio Marshall is a City Year AmeriCorps member serving as mentor and tutor at the Johnson School of Excellence in North Lawndale community in Chicago, Illinois.