For 20 years, we’ve helped students stay

For 20 years, we’ve helped students stay in school & prepare for their next step. Honored to be recognized by AT&T Aspire! #ATTimpact


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Opening Day 2013

By Kyle Pearce, Civic Engagement

A far cry from the austere and stately rotunda of City Hall, Glenville High School’s auditorium bustled with the unbridled excitement of over 180 fourteen year old students fresh from the lunch room.  During my first corps year we held our Opening Day Ceremony downtown at the seat of Cleveland’s local government.  But this year, in an effort to ensure maximum connectivity to our vision of turning around the nation’s drop out crisis, we had sought to shift the location of the event to one of our partner schools.


On the afternoon of October 4th, students, teachers, administrators, civic leaders, corporate sponsors, alumni, family and friends all joined our fifty City Year corps members as we formally kicked off the year.  Opening Day presents City Year’s most recent wave of young, idealistic leaders to the community and features a commitment to the students whom we serve in the city of Cleveland.

The event, typically characterized by speeches from local government officials and area businessmen and women, additionally included performances by the Glenville drum line, dancers, cadets, cheerleaders, and student vocalists this year.  Their display of talents and school spirit generated an electrifying atmosphere.

Our students’ musical and artistic routines set the stage for three very important City Year champions.  Approximately midway through the ceremony, the Vice President of External Affairs with AT&T Ohio, Mylayna Albright, presented a $20,000 check in recognition of an important and mutually beneficial partnership.  Following several more student performances, CEO Eric Gordon of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District spoke, challenging the assembled students to stay in school and graduate on time, and reminding them of all the resources they have available to them.  Mayor Frank Jackson came on stage as we neared the end of the program to offer City Year Cleveland a proclamation.  In it he acknowledged the central role that our corps members play in transforming education in Cleveland’s public schools, and thanked us for the work that we do.

The ceremony at the high school actually only constituted a small portion of this event. The balance of the day saw our corps members go out into the community and engage in physical service.  Over the course of the morning, prior to the ceremony, we prepared garden projects at two separate locations in the Glenville Neighborhood.  Then, directly following the program at the High School, we invited our guests and students to join us at the garden locations.  The level of participation from our youth thrilled us, as Opening Day provided them with an opportunity to take a vested interest in and express ownership over their community.  At the Superior Avenue garden site, we returned approximately twenty overgrown garden bed19s to reasonable order, which certainly will make future maintenance tremendously easier for neighborhood volunteers.  Veronica and Michael Walton, the organizers of the garden, also tasked our volunteers to erect a ‘hoop house’, which efficiently traps heat and allows fruits and vegetables to continue growing throughout the winter.  This newly acquired ability to farm year-round will benefit the output of the Walton’s garden immensely.  At the Ashbury Community Garden, our second location, we painted fences, a shed, and weeded the beds.  City Year Cleveland has partnered with garden leader Sandra Robertson in the past, and in an expression of her appreciation for our continued assistance, she provided volunteers with a barbeque feast for lunch.  At both garden sites, our corps members made a significant and transformative impact.

The day met with success due wholly to the hardworking, flexible, and dependable nature of this year’s corps.  City Year Cleveland remains unwaveringly committed to the communities in which we serve, and we will continue to work tirelessly to improve the environments in which our students are expected to live and learn.

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by Taina Casimir, CM-Franklin D. Roosevelt Elementary

I LOVE READING. Today, my kids did, too! I’m a tutor/mentor in the 6th grade. Things often go awry. Kids get moody, or distracted, or are just disinterested.


Today…everything just…worked! I try not to come in with my hopes too high because they rarely focus as much as you’d like, or get as far as you know they can but today…today they astounded me! First, we started reading a book in a girl’s small-group; seven of my 6th grade girls came out of class with me for it. Of course, there was the usual excitement at being out of class and the accompanying chit-chat. In addition to that, some of them were “the” 6th grade girls: the junior plastics (See: “Mean Girls”). However, we wrote expectations for our group before reading. I told them I wanted them to come up with the expectations themselves, that way if they didn’t keep them, they’d have their own selves to blame. Everyone participated in making the list. We wrote out 10 expectations to govern our behavior during small-group time. I said that whenever someone was breaking a rule, I’d just mention the # expectation they were dishonoring to remind them to get in line. They wrote all ten on an index card, and referenced them to keep themselves and each other in line. Not a single cat fight broke out. IT WORKED!

I gave them another index card to use as a bookmark. On it, I told them they should write words they couldn’t pronounce or didn’t know the meaning of. At first, I’d have to make them pause in between paragraphs and prompt them to write words I knew they didn’t know. Pretty soon, however, they were pausing in between their reading to write words down themselves. And when it seemed a lot of them were stumped on the same word, they had small discussions using context clues to figure out the meaning. IT WORKED! We got through the whole first chapter today. Everyone was genuinely interested. Everyone is excited to come back tomorrow! IT WORKED!

When I returned the girls to their English class, the teacher asked if I would mind taking out another group for small-group reading. WHAT?! Of course, I don’t mind! TWO PULL-OUTS BACK TO BACK?! I live for this! So, I end up with a group of four boys and I was a little sad because none of them were the kids I usually try to spend targeted intervention time with (the ones that are off-track academically and need individualized or small group time). Then the teacher decided he would send out one of my girls that I wasn’t able to get into the girls reading group. She has a hard time focusing and its worse when she’s with her girls so it’s probably best she ended up in the group with the boys. The passage ended up being about the origins of baseball and the (lack of) black history in it. I was afraid I might lose them since its nonfiction, vocabulary heavy, and they’re so easily distracted. However, we went over the vocabulary terms first and we discussed. They asked questions throughout the reading and voiced their opinions on what they were reading. Everyone managed to stay involved; with a little redirection and guided reading, we got through the entire passage with time to spare for further discussion! IT WORKED!

Today taught me to have a little faith in my kids and a little faith in me. Today has been a great day 🙂


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A Ripple of Tradition

by Jeremy Joseph, CM- East Technical High School

On February 27th, 2013 we hosted City Year Cleveland’s first Championship Spelling Bee at Glenville High School.  The event featured the top six spellers from the three City Year High Schools—Glenville, John Adams, and East Technical High School—as well as Carl and Louis Stokes Central Academy.  After a huge collaborative effort (a stone soup effort, if you will), preparations and planning all culminated into an exciting academic competition.  Each speller had received a list of words to study before the event and they were able to utilize corps members in the schools for any help with the studying.  All of the food and prizes for the event were inkinded from different places around the area, including Chipotle burritos for each contestant, cake and drinks from Dave’s Super Market, and gift cards from Penn Station, Chipotle, Guthrie’s, Applebee’s, and Loganberry Books &Strong Bindery.  Each contestant also received a Spelling Bee t-shirt for their school, baked goods, and school supplies.  Preparing for the championship Spelling Bee had been very smooth because each school had already hosted their own Spelling Bee in December to determine the top spellers.
                Although this was the first City Year Championship Spelling Bee, the first idea to host one at each school was a ripple from last year’s Corps Members.  A ripple is a City Year founding story from Robert F. Kennedy that is the idea that different acts and ideas can create ripples of action that turn into larger concepts and occurrences.  The idea to host a Spelling Bee first came from ’11-’12 Corps Member at East Tech, Noah Sutter.  This year, the East Tech team wanted to host another Spelling Bee and that then branched out to have one at each High School, then a Championship Bee with the top spellers.  Noah has even come to support both events this year and gave suggestions and support to assist with the planning.  The ripple in this case crosses over between corps members and focuses on carrying on the tradition, while making the next year’s event bigger and better.
                The Spelling Bee itself featured strong competition and highlighted the time students put in to memorize the words.  In the end, Glenville had the top speller and second and third places went to students from East Tech.  The audience was comprised of City Year, students, parents, and staff from each school cheering on their spellers.  Despite minor setbacks and changes, the event was a success and showcased the students’ hard work and impressive abilities.  Hopefully City Year will be able to host events like this in the future and keep the tradition going.

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An Alumna in the Mirror

By Annette Iwamoto, City Year Cleveland Alumni Advisory Board Chair

My journey to Cleveland and to City Year, started when I googled “one year service programs.”  City Year was the first result and the more I read about it, the more I liked.  At the time, I was close to graduating from college with little idea of what I wanted to do in my career besides that I wanted to help others.  Within a week I completed my application and chose to apply to where I was most needed because I liked the idea of leaving it up to fate to help me figure out where to go.  Almost five years later, I am still in Cleveland helping to build a stronger community. 

As a first year corps member, I was placed on the Civic Engagement Team where I did much of the “behind the scenes” type work.  I helped plan service, managed a business-school partnership, and coordinated some of our external engagement activities.  I flourished.  I absolutely loved it and found that my strength was being able to convey the importance of City Year’s work in the schools and with youth to stakeholders and serving as point person on logistics.  Halfway through my corps year, I still believed I could help grow City Year and become a better leader if I devoted another year to City Year Cleveland.  When it came time to work on my LACY (Leadership After City Year), I decided I wanted to go back to school to study macro level social work (community organizing and nonprofit management type of work) and although I visited a few schools, I couldn’t bring myself to leave Cleveland.  I graduated with my Masters last May from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University.

But even when I graduated from City Year I could not separate myself from the organization.  I joined the movement to grow alumni engagement with our site and became a part of the City Year Cleveland Alumni Advisory Board.  Each year, around MLK weekend, we organize activities to help connect alumni to each other, corps members, and to City Year.  We kicked off this past weekend with a social at the Bier Market.  It was great to hear alumni compare service years and look at old pictures.  Then on Saturday, we held our annual Corps Member-Alumni Basketball Game.  After a 2 year losing streak, the alumni finally won again!  Of course we ended the week off right with service for MLK Day.  Some of our alumni were able to revisit the schools they served at while performing service projects with corps members and others served together with other community volunteers at the Downtown Cleveland YMCA.  I was lucky enough to be able to host corps members, community volunteers, and even some City Year Cleveland Board members and their families where I work- at Providence House, which provides emergency shelter for children ages newborn to ten to prevent abuse or neglect while supporting family preservation through innovative programming. Altogether, City Year alumni joined over 700 volunteers throughout Cleveland making MLK Day a day on and not a day off.

Beyond connecting with City Year alumni, MLK Weekend is a time for reflection.  I am able to remember the time that I shoveled mulch all day to build a playground for kids on E. 55th (I was so sore the next day I could barely move), or the time I worked 13 hour days for a week so that I could participate in physical service during 100 Hours of Power  while still helping to plan the Annual Gala, or the time I helped a third grader struggle through writing his name and first realized the human impact of the Dropout Crisis.

City Year often uses PITWs (Putting Idealism to Work) to inspire and offer advice. 

PITW #159 This is hard.  Be strong. 

Without a doubt my two years of service for City Year were some of the most difficult times for me.  It is hard to wake up early and go home late every day, while giving 110% to help get our kids in school and on track, and to do it while only earning a living stipend.  But those years have defined who I am as a person today and how I strive to continue to make our community a better place.  For me, MLK weekend is a chance to connect to City Year alumni, to remember those who made it possible for us to have the rights we have today, to commit to improving our community, and a chance to be grateful for the impact City Year has had on my life.


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In a Year

By Selina Rios, Program Manager

In 2012 we saw plenty of ups and downs as a site, an organization, a city and even as a nation. We saw the worst in people, but we also got to see the good.

Hurricane Sandy took us out of school for a couple of days and devastated the East Coast. We had looters and scam artists taking advantage of the happenings.  But we were also able to witness people risking their lives and putting themselves in harm’s way to help their fellow neighbor.



The Costa Concordia wrecked and 11 people died. But the outrage of the public at the event means that hopefully nothing like this will happen in 2013.Image

Whitney Houston died, but we got to remember a legend for who she had been and what she was able accomplish. She has inspired generations of singers and her legacy will live on.


Tragically, we saw Lebron get a ring, defeating the young Oklahoma Thunder. For us in Cleveland, #enoughsaid.


Michael Phelps became a swimming legend. #stacks on stacks… of medals that is.


The world discovered that William and Kate are going to have a baby (although it was a little awkward the way we found out).


Kim Kardashian married Kris Humphries, then divorced Kris Humphries


Kim Kardashian hooked up with Kanye West and is now pregnant with his baby.


Yet we all know that as famous as this baby will be, he/she will never have as much swag as Blue Ivy. #Truth


Obama was re-elected.


Sandy Hook. Words can’t describe the emotions and feelings that I had in response to this tragedy. Children murdered and the masses outraged. Michael Brown called for a moment of silence.  Following that moment my co-workers discussed their feelings and passions about the mental health sector and gun control. As I listened I tried to imagine what it would be like if this happened at one of my schools. I thought of how heroic those teachers had been and how frightened those students were; how would I have reacted?


The most amazing thing?—students and teachers returned to Sandy Hook.

ImageWe will stand, we are strong, we will survive. Image

Every 26 seconds a student drops out of high school.

I know that in most cases being idealistic comes off as naïve or immature, but in City Year it is our way of life. I truly believe that I put a face on statistics and that it is an honor to serve in the city of Cleveland. No longer is it about A STUDENT, it is about MY STUDENTS who have said to me “I don’t wanna die Ms. Selina.” What I realize now for myself is the very thing I tell them– the only way to make change is through education.  I am not done growing or learning and I never will be.


2012 was a life changing year for me. I woke up one day as if it were any other day. I put on my uniform like I had the day before and the day before that. But it wasn’t just another day; it was the day that my life changed. You don’t forget days like that. The sharp noise in my ear knocked me down and the entire world started to spin.  I thought I was going to die; I almost did die. I may not be able to give birth to children and for the rest of my life a headache will not just be a headache, it could be a sign–a sign of something bigger. I suffered 4 strokes but I survived. I am healed and my life has moved on.  I am alive and more than that I am living.  I will not live in fear.

Every year, all across the world, resolutions are made. My resolution is to be better than the year before, to take risks and to keep moving forward. At summer academy Juana Bordas shared the legend of Sankofa, a bird that is looking towards the past for guidance but always moving forward. Like the Sankofa I must use my experiences to make me stronger and keep pushing forward.


One day I am going to do something that changes the world and you’ll come back to this moment, reading this post, you’ll remember seeing my name and know that my idealism was purely my tool for transformation. I am not invincible, nor am I unbreakable. I am undefined and destined. I am irregular and unforgettable. I may complain, push back and over-work myself, but only because I am not satisfied and I have a job that will never be done. I fight for education and the right to it, for every student. I am a challenge. I am a challenge to those who see the system as broken and hopeless. I am.

From the beginning of the school year until November 16, we as a site had served our focus list students with 1130 hours of interventions. We have so many more hours to go, but it is a start, because to everything there is not only an end, but a start as well.

It’s always a good time to start.

Happy New Year from City Year Cleveland!

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Two Words

By Brian Schultz, corps member at Fullerton Elementary School

To almost everyone that knows me I was not the “typical” year of service person so I encounter the question of why all the time.  Why a year of service?  Why do you do what you do?  Well City Year preps us for this question by having us develop a short why I serve statement.  However, mine seems to be ever changing and evolving.  The why is hard for me to explain at times.  When I first started this year of service I honestly had no idea why.

But now I can easily say a two word response… my kids.  I consider not only the 28 third graders I serve as my kids but also all of the kids from K-3 whom I interact with on a daily basis.  I serve so that I can play rock, paper, scissors with a kindergartner named AJ every morning.  I serve so that I can ask a second grader who use to never do his homework if he did it every morning and I now get a high five and “of course Mr. Brian!”  I serve so my third graders can have sharpened pencils.  I serve to provide a sometimes silly but productive learning environment.  I serve because one of my third graders who never believed in himself recently told me he was going to be somebody when he grew up.  I now serve for a million little reasons.  But they all add up to one resounding reason.  I serve because of those kids.  Because they deserve the world and they deserve to have someone believe that they can conquer it.

At the start of City Year I never would have never believed it if someone told me I would become so emotionally invested in what I was doing.  It’s hard not to be invested when you have twenty-eight kids who look at you as a friend, mentor, comedian, motivator, and even sometimes a meanie.  These kids have given me an indescribable gift.  They inspire me, they make me laugh, they give me hope.  These kids are the future and all my kids want is a chance.  A chance to be somebody.  A chance to see that someone cares about them.

This holiday season I am extremely grateful for my kids.  Yes, sometimes they give me a headache but they also inspire me to be and do better.  In many ways I believe these kids have given me more than I could ever give them.  I would like to end this post with a lyric from a song that has been on my mind lately.  “Where you invest your love you invest your life.” -Mumford & Sons.  I am not ashamed to admit I love my kids and that is why I serve.

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by | December 21, 2012 · 3:40 PM