A Day in the Life, Inspired by Students


Growing up in Oregon, I had never heard of City Year. At the University of Oregon, being the eager freshman I was, I talked to a career counselor who mentioned City Year as a potential opportunity to take during a year off from school. I applied to where most-needed before the first application deadline, giddy with excitement. I signed up to serve because I knew that I had a lot to learn and hopefully a lot to offer. Now I serve because the students that I work with inspire me. They motivate me, they ground me, they challenge me, they may frustrate me, but without a doubt they make me smile and make me laugh. All of this fun starts during 1st period, where I tutor the first few of 8 students that I will spend individualized intervention sessions with throughout the school day. One of the students that I tutor in literacy is Jaylin.

Written by Laree Foster, corps member on the Clyde Fischer San Francisco 49ers Foundation Team

Written by Laree Foster, corps member on the Clyde Fischer San Francisco 49ers Foundation Team

When I met Jaylin, her attitude was polarized as either spunky or defeated. She is so clearly a bright girl, but when challenged I saw her shut down, a quality I recognized in myself. As months passed as her Extended Learning Time (ELT) Bridge leader, I began to gain her trust. Enough trust to learn of her broken family dynamics and her belief that her teacher does not believe in her. All that I could do was encourage her to try her best. Her best began to be better, and now her confidence is higher than ever. Now she is proud of her schoolwork and she has exceeded the 6th grade benchmark in fluency and reading comprehension, but what I am most proud about is how she is no longer stifled by reading a big word or solving a long math problem. I know that she can do these things without help. And most importantly, she knows that she can, too.

When I am not tutoring, I get to break up the day by playing football with kids during lunch, assisting with student council meetings, or leading Reader’s Theater during a special education class, before heading off to Room 55 where I meet my BRIDGE class promptly at 2:45. Up until this point in the year, I have led two literacy blocks during ELT each day but I am in the process of transitioning into Co-Behavior Coordinator where I will work with students who exhibit anti-social behavior or have more intense social and emotional needs. After my year of service ends, I will be a senior studying psychology and special education. I hope to build upon my experiences with education, to keep them in my mind as I one day hope to become a school psychologist, where I will meet many Jaylin’s, Fabian’s, Jesus’s, Jonathan’s and Angela’s again.


Taking a Complaint-Free Moment


This gallery contains 5 photos.

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: The San Francisco 49ers

 By Nicholas Whitson, Evaluations Project Leader 


Growing up in San Diego I’ve had a little grudge against the 49ers since they beat the San Diego Chargers in the 1995 Super Bowl. So when I was asked if I would like to attend a 49ers game I was a little reluctant. Nevertheless, I showed up early and piled into a car with my fellow corps and staff members eager to help City Year with the school supply drive.

As we got closer to Candlestick Park we found ourselves in a parade of yellow and red 49er’s flags. We all gasped when we saw a child lean out of a truck window and pump his fist at us in excitement. We were in red and yellow, on the 49ers turf, and were about to be part of something larger.


Brandon, the 49ers Foundation Community Relations Manager, came by and talked to us about how it was a beautiful day at Candlestick Park. I was in full uniform, khakis, Timberlands and a red bomber perfect to represent City Year AND the 49ers.. I stood near an empty box labeled school supply donations and I called out in a shaky voice, “accepting donations for school supplies!” as waves of people walked passed me like I was a ghost. I had started sweating though my undershirt when I caught the eye of an older couple reaching into their bag.  They pulled out a shopping bag full of brand new pens, notebooks and erasers. They wished me luck as they left to go find their seats. This was the snow ball that started the avalanche. I teamed up with Aarika, a City Year staff member, and suddenly our voices were loud and our donation envelope was overflowing.


When the drive was over we were invited to come in and watch the game. 49ers running back Kendall Hunter even scored a touchdown as soon as we found our seats. This sealed up all the excitement I felt from collecting school supplies. For our students new school supplies make them excited about learning. Our student’s academic progress this year can be greatly attributable to the 49ers attention and contributions and I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you for the continued support.

Thankful Thursday: 2011-2012 Corps Members

This is to the City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley corps of 2011/2012.

Congratulations to all of you.  Thank you for your service.

As I was preparing to write this blog I came upon the realization that “Thank you” is such a trite way to express gratitude.

I can list the great accomplishments of your 2000 hours of service. The 100’s of students served, the difference you made in schools around attendance behavior and course performance. But that does not capture it all. There is “behind the scenes” work that no one sees that’s helps make this all happen.

Things like:

  • Preparing lesson plans after 10 hour days
  • In some cases, convincing your parents to let you do this
  • Stepping up when a teammate was sick
  • Minimum days (which were really maximum days)
  • Living on a small stipend
  • Piloting programs
  • Data and all the entry, analysis, adjustment of same
  • Serving on committees in addition to your regular responsibilities
  • Staying late, with a great attitude, until the l a s t  s t u d e n t is  finally picked up
  • Lunch with students, spending the time to get to know them and building relationships
  • Walking students home
  • Working with teachers, doing meetings, tracking student progress
  • Talking with parents and siblings of students and building relationships with them


  • End of year events

You took time from your life and devoted it to service. Pure service that entailed you giving your absolute best ALL the time to make sure students that were total strangers 11 months ago became the reason for your being.

You’ve been trained, observed and evaluated. You rose above daunting challenges and chose not be overwhelmed by your task of giving a year and changing the world.  You just did it. You put your shoulder into the grindstone and did it via your 50+ hour work week, minute by minute, line by line, math problem by math problem you did it. You changed the worlds of so many students. You worked with students who had no hope, no confidence and no investment in their own future. These same students now have goals, and aspirations. Once more, they can write about them and even figure out how to achieve them.

You chose this path perhaps for personal or professional reasons. Maybe both. All of you were challenged. Some left. But if you are a City Year San Jose / Silicon Valley graduate. You stayed.

And here you are, 53 friends who were strangers a year ago.  A corps of 53 change agents. You took a chance to join City Year and change the world. And you did it. Thank you and congratulations.

Beach Pace, Executive Director CYSJ/SV

Congrats to our PITW award winners!!

Putting Idealism to Work (PITW) is a collection of ideas written and edited by City Year CEO and Co-Founder Michael Brown, but contributed to by many people. It contains 182 pieces of collective City Year wisdom that guide our service and serve as a reference for ways to implement our mission in our daily work.  Our site gives out PITW awards to people who embody these ideals.

PITW #177– Laugh at least once a day. Everyday.

Awarded to Lauren Jordan, Corps Member on the 49ers Foundation team at Goss Elementary and Katie Judge, Corps Member on the NVIDIA team at Dorsa Elementary

Lauren Jordan

Ms. Jordan for always has a smile on her face and a dance in her step, literally. She always has such great energy and enthusiasm with her team and students. Her dedication to serve with positivity and an open-mind definitely shines through her service. I know I can count on Lauren to take her work seriously but also make it a really fun time for everyone involved.

Katie Judge

I don’t know where our team would be without Katie. Her sense of humor, innocence, and pure honesty keeps us going every day. Her ability to get her work done well and to make us laugh uncontrollably is something I’ll always be thankful for.

PITW #63– Refuse to fail. (aka “City Year refuses to fail.”)

Awarded to Emily Weber, Corps Member on the NVIDIA team at Dorsa Elementary

Emily Weber

Whenever times are challenging we have the option of staying to fight or running away. I don’t think Emily ever thinks about running away. She takes on each problem head on and if it’s not her problem, she offers to help the person it affects. Emily refuses to let our students, our team, or our organization fail.

PITW #53– Set very high expectations for yourself and others- especially people you are leading.

Awarded to Vanessa Palafox, Corps Member on the Applied Materials team at Mathson Middle School

Vanessa Palafox

P-fox has really brought this PITW to life for me. Throughout our service, she has continued to hold high expectations for her students, teammates, and herself. These high expectations have really motivated the students by showing them what they are capable of achieving inside and outside the classroom! Her creativity and passion for these students allows them to really enjoy and respect the structure within each enrichment. Her dedication and commitment to these students resounds through her perseverance in holding high expectations for herself. Thanks for your service!

Sí Se Puede Awards: January

The Sí Se Puede Awards are inspired by Cesar Chavez who was, and still is, an important role model in our community. The people of San José are familiar with his work and celebrate him to this day. This saying, “Sí Se Puede,” is part of that culture and pride.

For students, “Sí Se Puede” is a reminder that they can do well and be great, both in their academics and in the choices they make in life. When corps members assist them in these accomplishments, they are ultimately changing the students’ attitudes about themselves and their future. For corps members, “Sí Se Puede” can be used to get through this city year because it serves as a reminder that they are making a difference in children’s lives and in the world. It’s a symbol of their pride in the community and in the work they do.  With Sí Se Puede awards, we seek to recognize and celebrate exemplary corps member efforts.

This month’s recipient: Chelsey Flink, Corps Member on the 49ers Foundation team at Goss Elementary

Chelsey Flink

Chelsey received multiple nominations for this award. One nominator wrote, “There are numerous stories that capture why Chelsey deserves this award, but it is hard to capture her character through words alone. She can be described as a black pearl. A black pearl is a very rare, fine, admirable, and difficult gem to find in the world. Like a black pearl, Chelsey is the type of person who you do not see often. She would be difficult to replicate. Chelsey proves this daily in creating a welcoming and encouraging environment in her tutoring sessions and after school classroom.  The teacher who works closely with Chelsey has been impressed by the great gains her focus list students have achieved from the start of the year until now.”

Another nominator said this of Chelsey:

“I’ve seen her put heart and soul into everything she does. Whether she’s preparing literacy lessons for after school, a session for her behavior group or material for her literacy sessions, she puts a lot of thought and creativity into her plans. You can see the results of her time and effort when you look at her students’ faces. They’re all smiles. It’s refreshing to see quieter students come out of their shells and answer comprehension questions confidently. Chelsey is a breath of fresh air.”