City Year’s model is a bad one

January 17, 2019

IN RESPONSE to “What working for City Year taught me”: I too “volunteered” for City Year for the 2018-2019 school year and also called it quits in December, my last day being the one before holiday break.

I agree with these issues; however, I definitely have some to add. I worked in Boston, which was the founding site, leading me to believe it would be most organized. Boy, was I wrong. The worst instance occurred early on after us corps members were placed on our school teams.

Apparently, the city of Boston wanted another school to receive a team (we had 29 total) so they decided to rip several individuals from their original teams and throw them together in a new partnership school without any leadership. No team leader and no impact manager. Let me emphasize the fact that AmeriCorps members are first-year workers and have zero prior experience aside from basic training academy and therefore have no idea of their role within a school, let alone a school that has never had City Year before. I had several friends on this school team and they all said the same thing: It was a disaster.

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Aside from that, City Year has us work toward a massive amount of service hours by graduation (1,700) but a huge portion of these hours are wasted time. We have a ridiculous amount of “transition time” during training days, show up early to everything only to sit around for a half hour before school or sessions, and most of the trainings are common sense or useless in school anyway. I had a session on bulletin board making where I colored for an hour and a half and I was earning “service hours” while doing it.

What makes it worse is we were awarded service hours for things that weren’t even remotely close to service! Team building at the aquarium should NOT be service hours! Neither should going to headquarters and talking to other AmeriCorps members for two hours! Either lower the service hour requirement or stop wasting our time!

The last thing I will mention is the mandatory tutoring time. Each corps member must compose a list of eight students to tutor in English language arts or math. Afterward it is that AmeriCorps member’s responsibility to reach 900 minutes (15 hours) worth of tutoring time with each student. This is easy for some members and extremely difficult for others. Personally I fell far behind due to my class’s disruptive behavior.

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I adored my kids, but it was well known that they struggled to settle down or be quiet long enough for the teacher to complete a lesson. It was also a struggle since they were in math under two hours max a day, AmeriCorps members were not in the schools on Fridays, and one day a week they didn’t even have math.

With that said, my leadership wanted to keep me on track and made suggestions but there was nothing they could say to make me pry my kids away from the lessons considering their teacher was way more qualified, experienced and doing her job.

The tutoring time, in my opinion, made the organization unintentional. Each classroom has different needs and despite having tutoring time requirements I spent most of my time doing behavioral management so my kids could stay focused and under control long enough for a lesson. I believe the students shape the role of the AmeriCorps member, and I embraced mine as the keeper of order, despite my requirements.

I understand that the data from tutoring time is used to show evidence of City Year’s impact but with each class being different it should not be a requirement of all classes. Additionally, the minimum tutoring time that can be logged with a student is 15 minutes and I know for a fact that AmeriCorps members exaggerate their times tremendously due to teachers’ annoyance over pull-outs and their own anxiety over meeting the goal.

All in all, the program has many flaws and from my experience I do not believe it is sustainable. In the end, the only sustainable factor is the emotional impact you and your kids make on one another and that is the one thing I will appreciate about the program.
Rachel Lynne, Robbinsville, New Jersey

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