In addition to logging 875 hours helping students with literacy and math this year, corps members have surprised teachers with coffee and donuts, served free breakfast to students, and played chess and Monopoly with kids during tutoring, Dawkins said.
Part of the philosophy of City Year is that corps members—18 to 25 years old—are not far removed from school themselves, allowing them to forge stronger relationships.
“In a tighter budget picture, I would hate to see programs like this go away,” Dawkins said. “I just think they are great kids and are great for school culture.”
In some cities, the possibility of losing funding for programs is throwing plans into question.
In Memphis, the school district is piloting an after-school tutoring program launched through City Year. Now in two Memphis schools, it is designed to grow to five schools and 50 AmeriCorps members by next school year.
The startup’s director, Karmin-Tia Greer, said it’s too soon to tell what gutting AmeriCorps would mean for students in Memphis. Currently, AmeriCorps provides about 25 percent of the project’s funding.
“We hope that Congress will continue to support AmeriCorps, which has shown to positively impact students and schools in a cost-effective way,” she said.
In New York City, home to the nation’s largest school district, more than 250 City Year corps members serve in 24 public schools with about 13,000 total students, officials said. AmeriCorps members have also served in the city’s community schools and through programs like Blue Engine, Harlem Children’s Zone, and Teach for America, whose corps members use stipends to help pay for their master’s degree programs.
Through another AmeriCorps program, Citizen Schools, 41 corps members act as teaching fellows in high-needs middle schools in Harlem and Brooklyn, where they also help mobilize community partners to volunteer, said Wendy Lee, the executive director of Citizen Schools NY.
“Our entire operating model is based on having AmeriCorps service members in schools,” Lee said. If funding were cut, she said, “We’d either have to rethink staffing or rethink the way our model is delivered.”
As AmeriCorps staff and supporters make their case to Congress, they will point to results.
A 2015 study examining three years of educational outcomes in 22 cities found that schools that partner with City Year were up to three times more likely to improve on math and English assessments.
In Denver, three-quarters of the schools with City Year corps members have moved up in the city’s rating system. That includes North High School, where Wolf, the principal, credited City Year for helping with the turnaround.
Brittanyanne Cahill, 26, who is in her second year of City Year Denver service, reports similar progress at the Hill Campus of Arts and Science.
The suburban Atlanta native majored in special education in college, did a stint student teaching, signed on as a corps member at Hill last year, and came back this year as a “senior corps member” mentoring first-year corps members and working with students.
“My eyes have been opened,” she said. “There is so much hardship. Schools around the country are not able to provide the support that all students need to succeed.”
This post appears courtesy of Chalkbeat. Caroline Bauman contributed reporting.