As Beach Pace, executive director of City Corps San Jose, puts it: "Corps members work with students who are performing well below their grade level — eighth-graders reading at a second-grade level and fifth-graders still learning basic arithmetic."
City Corps provides extensive training to ensure that corps members have the tools to effectively help under-performing students. As a result, students who previously were only learning half a year's material in one school year can, in many cases, accelerate their progress to the point where they are learning 1.5 years of material, closing the achievement gap. A standardized reading curriculum enables corps members to track each student's progress — and let students see their own progress.
Mountain View resident Yvette Licea is one of the enthusiastic young corps members. A graduate of Mountain View High School, Yvette double-majored in psychology and Spanish at the University of Southern California. During college, she volunteered extensively with an organization that worked with inner-city students, so when she heard about City Year, it sounded like the perfect fit for her after-graduation plans.
Yvette serves at Mildred Goss Elementary School in the Alum Rock School district in East San Jose. Yvette admits that her typical week is not an easy one, usually involving 50-60 hours of work. But what keeps her going is the knowledge that "maybe today will be the day that I'll change (a student's) life!"
As a Latina, Yvette is able to act as a liaison with parents as well as serve as a role model for students. "It's nice to know that parents feel comfortable asking me questions since I am Hispanic myself. Meanwhile, I tell the students, 'I'm Latina, I'm Mexican, I did it, and you can, too!"
What can you do to help or learn more?
1) Volunteer with City Year for Global Youth Service Day to beautify Majestic Way Elementary School in San Jose on April 16. Contact Chris Romero at 408-667-2776 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
2) Attend City Year's inspirational annual gala on May 19. Information at www.cityyear.org/sanjose.
3) Encourage someone to apply for the 2011-12 corps. The priority application deadline is May 15. Corps members receive a stipend, loan forgiveness, and more.
4) A House resolution (HR 1) seeks to eradicate national service programs such as AmeriCorps and City Year. It will go before the Senate very soon. Learn more and take action to stop this bill at www.saveservice.org.
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