Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Payne

Hi, my name is Sarah Payne and I am from Henderson, Kentucky. After graduating from the University of Kentucky in 06’, I made a decision that continues to positively benefit my life—I committed to serve with City Year. I served in the 2006-2007 corps, as well as 2007-2008 as a Senior Corps Member. I often look back on my corps member experience and think how grateful I am to have had this opportunity to be a part of something greater than myself, and thankful that I surrounded myself with people who truly care about making this world a better place. My City Year experience was truly life-changing and it continues to make me a better leader, communicator, and person. I currently work in Cambrian School District in San Jose as a 4th grade teacher.

Sarah Payne, City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley corps member '06-'08

Sarah Payne, City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley corps member ’06-’08

 In every classroom I teach, I begin each year by building the beloved community. It is my personal mission to build classroom environments that foster success, community, and self-confidence. The importance of community, instilled from my City Year experience, will always be a part of every class I teach. Service learning is powerful! After introducing my students to the Starfish Story, each student is making a personal commitment to changing the world, as a class we are committed to holding one another accountable for our commitments.

 Ultimately I want me students to know that they have the power to make a difference. In our classroom we have a Wall of Positivity and a Wall of Good and Beautiful People, Places, and Things.  These are essential components of our creating our classroom community. As a teacher I think often about Putting Idealism To Work, or PITW# 98 All people-especially young people-need the same eight things: Meaning, adventure, community, power, respect, structure, challenge, and opportunity. City Year provided me with these eight things and I am committed to providing my students with these as well.


Taking a Complaint-Free Moment


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I’m no stranger to complaints. I field a lot of them in my position as a 6th grade literacy tutor and Extended Learning Time facilitator at Clyde L. Fischer Middle School. This week, I decided to reverse the tables. I asked … Continue reading

Thankful Thursday: San Jose Sharks

–Written by Kevin Hoang, corps member at Fischer Middle School

Students excited to cheer on the Sharks

Students excited to cheer on the Sharks

On Tuesday, November 5, the Fischer Saints had a great opportunity to share in some San Jose spirit by attending the San Jose Sharks game. Even though I’ve lived in the Bay Area my whole life, I’ve never had the chance to see a Sharks game so it was special for me to share my first experience with my students.

Students began arriving around 7pm to get ready for the game, and we quickly funneled inside to grab our seats.  Armed with some delicious game food and excitement, we arrived just in time to see the puck dropped for the first period.

View from the City Year seats.

View from the City Year seats.

Throughout the game, students watched intently as the puck flew across the ice and cheered loudly whenever the Sharks scored. When the Sharks made their second goal of the game, students erupted in cheers and high-fived other members in the crowd, really showing how much spirit our Fischer Saints have! As we left the game, the students talked about how much they enjoyed the game and how they couldn’t wait to go to another one. We all had an amazing time and walked away even bigger Sharks fans! A huge thank you to the San Jose Sharks Foundation for this amazing opportunity.

City Year group enjoying the game!

City Year group enjoying the game!

Corps member Kevin Hoang enjoying his first Sharks game!

Corps member Kevin Hoang enjoying his first Sharks game!

Corps member Isabella Fante enjoying the game with her students

Corps member Isabella Fante enjoying the game with her students

Expanding Inclusivity at Lee Mathson Middle School

Written by Ally Sawyer, corps member on the Applied Materials Team at Lee Mathson Middle School

At Lee Mathson Middle School, where I serve, City Year works closely with the school administration to provide a seamless and comprehensive support structure for students. The program this year is different as I’m sure it is different every year. One way this has impacted me personally is that I facilitate a small block of Resource Specialist Program students: students that fall under the special education umbrella and require additional support. Last year, these students were mixed in with their differently leveled peers, which did not benefit them. Currently, they travel together in each of their after-school extended learning blocks, which provides them with scaffolded material and a higher teacher to student ratio, as well as allowing for personalized one-on-one support.


Mathson Corps Members with Principal Montejano, Vice Principal Leathers, and Siobhan Kenney, Director of Global Community Affairs at Applied Materials, Mathson’s Team Sponsor

One of the most attractive elements of City Year is that we are entirely composed of young, educated, highly invested Corps Members, and we use the power of young people to shape and grow the organization we have chosen to represent. One example of this is the way City Year at Lee Mathson Middle School has shifted to fully incorporate students with differently abled needs. Each ‘class’ of Corps Members continues to grow the program, to strengthen it. To be clear, each year of Corps Members are not distinct separate entities; every legacy builds on the shoulders of the year before, led by the City Year staff who do not leave after one year. These lasting relationships have strengthened City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley’s partnership with the Alum Rock Unified School District, to the point where the school itself makes it clear to parents and students that it is the expectation for all sixth grade students to be enrolled in the City Year Extended Learning Time after-school program.

The Resource Specialist Program class is all of ten students large, and it would be easy—almost understandable—for them to be lost in the scramble of the public school system, or even lost in City Year’s program, which has over 180 students enrolled. I am proud to serve for these students, who have to work twice as hard with half the resources, and I am proud that I have joined an organization that is focused to providing not only students, but schools with the support needed for success; a true dedication to the model of ‘Whole School, Whole Child.’

City Year Through The Eyes of A Student: An Interview With Second Grader, Eugene


By Jenna Morris, Corps Member 

Eugene plays at recess with corps member Jenna Morris

Eugene plays at recess with corps member Jenna Morris

If you ask any City Year corps member what they most like about serving at City Year, almost everyone will say “the kids.” As a corps member, I’ve had the privilege to get to know Eugene, a second grader who is in our Extended Learning Time after-school program. Eugene enjoys playing outside, eating strawberry ice cream, doing experiments, and is a member of our football club where he enjoys helping Ms. Sharmaine and Ms. Nicole. Last week I interviewed Eugene to get to know him better and learn about how City Year is impacting his life.


JENNA: What is your favorite thing about City Year?
EUGENE: They like to play with me and they help me. I like to play tag and Ms. and Mr. Fox.

JENNA: What have you learned so far in City Year?
EUGENE: I learned to be a good person. I am learning to not bully. I learned how to make a team and make friends.

JENNA: Who is someone you admire and why?
EUGENE: My family because they buy me costumes for Halloween. They help me to learn Spanish and Vietnamese. I was born in Vietnam. I have friends in Vietnam that I look up to. I look up to my Mom who lives in Texas and my grandpa who lives in San Jose.

JENNA: If you could be a food, what food would you be and why?
EUGENE: Strawberry ice cream because I like strawberry ice cream.

JENNA: If you could be an animal, what animal would you be and why?
EUGENE: Dragon because my favorite animal is dragons because they breathe fire and have wings.

JENNA: Tell me an interesting fact about yourself.
EUGENE: I make science projects. I made a volcano and it exploded. Then I cleaned up my mess so my grandma took me to Chuck E Cheese.

JENNA: What do you want to be when you grow up? Why?
EUGENE: I want to be a worker for Target. I want to make things for the children to play with and make clothes for them to wear at school and home.

I really enjoyed interviewing Eugene and getting to know him better. It’s so great to hear that the work we are doing matters and that the students are enjoying themselves, learning, and growing.

Eugene plays with his ELT classmates.

Eugene plays with his ELT classmates.

Making It: Corps Member Questions for the Team Leader

by Gerald Burns, Corps Member at Horace Cureton Elementary School

Gerald Burns, corps member at Cureton Elementary School and Ruben Raskin, team leader at Horace Cureton Elementary School

Gerald Burns, corps member at Cureton Elementary School and Ruben Raskin, team leader at Horace Cureton Elementary School

Monday morning, minutes after getting ready for school with the students at morning rally, my team leader, who is a second year corps members providing additional support for us during service, offers as he does with my team and I each week, “do you have time to walk and check in?” A chance to take a walk around campus on a one-on-one session with Ruben, Cureton’s team leader, is just what I need to help put Monday’s to-do list in perspective and get in a relaxed, positive space to dig into the day’s service. On today’s walk, I wanted to ask Ruben about how he came to be my team leader, the differences between serving as a first-year corps member (like myself) and returning for a second year at the same school as the team leader, and what lessons and pieces of advice from his first City Year affect him the most in his current position.

It turns out that this time last year, less than one month after our site’s Opening Day, Ruben was interested in applying for the role of team leader. Our Program Manager, during her first meeting with Ruben last year, suggested the opportunity of Senior Corps, and he took it seriously. Her faith in his capacity for leadership, and the challenge he knew would come from taking on that role, inspired him throughout his service last year and today. Ruben compared himself to our students when describing how the growth-mindset perspective our Program Manager had towards his future helped him believe that he had the potential to fill such an integral leadership role in all City Year teams. “Saying that I had that potential” said Ruben, “[made] me work harder…it’s liberating and inspiring.”

Ruben works to keep a growth-mindset toward our students’ development, even as the relationships he built with these students last year have changed. “You don’t get to work with students as much,” Ruben admits, whose student interactions this year are frequently over poor behavior choices. The silver lining: Ruben now enjoys “forming relationships with students he didn’t get as close to last year” and he believes that he continues to have an important, positive impact on student success in our after-school program. He reminds me of course that “it’s still early in the year,” and that these are just the early conversations in showing the students how much they can grow.

At this early stage in his second year of service at Cureton as our team leader, one piece of advice that has stuck with him came from a fellow corps member: “fake it until you make it.” Knowing Ruben’s sense of humor and gift for being genuine, I had an idea of what this meant to him: “the things we struggle with become habit, and an amazing transformation occurs,” he explained. “Because without even realizing it, you’ve developed so much by seeing challenging work as an opportunity to grow.” Hearing his positive approach to taking on daunting work what definitely what I needed to start my week of service.

Wordless Wednesday: The Carl and Leslee Guardino Summer Leadership Academy

City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley is currently running the Carl and Leslee Guardino Summer Leadership Academy at Cesar Chavez Elementary School. The Guardino Summer Leadership Academy began on Monday, August 5th, and will run until Friday, August 16th. Students are receiving two weeks of tuition-free summer school instruction while our 74 new corps members are getting trained and putting their knowledge into action with over 250 students. Thank you to all of our wonderful partners who are enabling us to serve our students: Carl and Leslee Guardino, Schmahl Science, Revolution Foods, Alum Rock Union Elementary School District, the San Francisco 49ers Foundation, SunPower, Trimble Navigation, Silicon Valley Bank, Wells Fargo, the City of San Jose, SYNNEX, Infinera, KQED, and PG&E Corporation.

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