A Week of Inspiration and Perspiration

As a City Year corps member turned staff member, I don’t often have the opportunity to work on a school campus. But the week of December 8-14th was very different. Last week, I was part of the ‘prep team’, a small but mighty crew of City Year corps and staff members who helped to prepare Ocala Middle School for Project Inspire.

Project Inspire is a two-day transformational project and NVIDIA’s replacement for an annual holiday party. While serving alongside Care Force as part of the prep team, I was able to see the day to day progress made toward completely transforming the Ocala Middle School campus. One of the most rewarding pieces of working on the prep team occurred when a student, teacher or staff member passing by would look at all of us in yellow and say ‘thank you’. Knowing that all the work we were doing was so greatly impacting the community at Ocala made all of the bumps, bruises and sore arms worth it.

Making holes for fencing posts!

Making holes for fencing posts!

In the four days leading up to Project Inspire I learned many new skills and carried what seemed like a million 2 by 4s, but the really amazing part came on Friday and Saturday when over 1,200 NVIDIA volunteers joined us to completely transform Ocala’s campus. On Friday, I led a group of NVIDIA employees in mixing, pouring and laying concrete for work on the East Valley Softball fields. I was incredibly proud of the hard work my group put in and as I walked my volunteers off campus, I discussed the impact our work was going to have on the students. On Saturday, due to my newfound expertise with concrete, I was given a concrete crew to fill in a number of different areas. This time my group was comprised of NVIDIA employees, a corps member’s friend, a staff member from Ocala’s after school program, and teacher who had been at Ocala since early 2000. As we mixed and poured concrete, our group discussed how much Ocala needed this external face lift and how excited the students would be to see how much the community was invested in them. As my group wrapped up our day of hard work, we were able to see just how large of an impact the work of 1,200 volunteers could have on a middle school campus.

Aptly named for the feeling you have when you leave each day, Project Inspire stays with me throughout the year. From the smiles and thank you’s from the Ocala and East Side community to the physical transformation made, I am able to remember all the good that can be done when people work together to create change. For me it truly embodies City Year’s motto and I can see that giving a year really can change the world.

Check out City Year, NVIDIA and the City of San Jose in the news and pictures from the event on Saturday and Sunday and a video recapping it all.

Written by Emily Weber, Development Associate


City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley Alumni Spotlight: Dylan O’Connor ’12-’13

Written by Jeanette Trinidad, City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley Alumni ’12-’13 & Alumni Board Member 

Dylan O’Connor served as a City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley corps member at Clyde L. Fischer Middle School during the 2012-2013 academic year after completing his undergraduate career at Roger Williams University. With the support from family and friends, Dylan joined CYSJ/SV to help an important cause and gain valuable experience. As a corps member, Dylan collaborated closely with faculty to coordinate math activities, plan tutoring lessons, and build successful student relationships.

Upon completing his year of service, Dylan headed to Boston to teach secondary math – while simultaneously earning a Masters in education from the University of Massachusetts Boston – as a resident for Boston Teacher Residency (BTR). BTR recruits talented college graduates, career changers and community members of all ages and gives them the tools to make an immediate impact in the classrooms of the Boston Public Schools (BPS). Combining a yearlong classroom apprenticeship with targeted master’s-level coursework, BTR provides every Resident with the practical learning, hands-on experience and ongoing support essential to any successful career in teaching.

O’Connor is quick to appreciate his experience in City Year and it’s impact on his current career endeavors. “City Year gave me extensive experience with classroom management, designing lessons, teaching students with English as a second language, and creating math activities. This carried directly into the classroom during BTR and gave me a leg up on other residents. It also gave me a valuable perspective on the lack of equity in the public school system.” Dylan’s journey in the field of public education has been full of hard work and growth. CYSJ/SV is proud to have been part of it and share his story.

For more information on City Year’s LACY Partnership with Boston Teacher Residency, please visit http://alumni.cityyear.org/?BTR

Remembering the Life of Nelson Mandela

Written by Eric M. Chávez (CYNY Alumnus & CYSJ/SV Alumni Board Member)

City Year San José/Silicon Valley would like to join their South African colleagues, those across our 25 other sites and those across the globe inspired by the work and achievements of Nelson Mandela in both the mourning of his death and the celebration of his life. His moral courage and unyielding commitment to social justice have positively changed not only his country but also the world. He’s traveled the path from political prisoner to president with remarkable personal grace, going so far as to invite his jailers to his inauguration.

He’s most definitely had a profound impact on City Year. In 2001, thirteen years after City Year’s founding, Mandela invited President Clinton to speak at a conference on Civil Society in Cape Town. Clinton brought along a delegation from the U.S., including City Year’s leadership and AmeriCorps representatives. It was this introduction that encouraged and inspired the founding of City Year South Africa.

This would become City Year’s first international site and is now in its eighth successful year. Since its inception in 2005, City Year South Africa has graduated over 1,200 Service Leaders who collectively engaged over 23,000 children through after school programs and various other projects. In total, these Service Leaders have completed an estimated 900,000 hours of service.

The new executive director of City Year South Africa, Daylene Van Buuren, never met Mandela but says he’s always been a central figure in her life and work. Van Buuren happened to be in Boston on City Year business when Mandela died. She spoke with WBUR’s All Things Considered host Sacha Pfeiffer last Friday. You can hear her entire interview here:

Mandela’s Role In Bringing Boston-Based City Year to South Africa

Michael Brown, City Year Co-Founder and CEO, explained in his statement after Mandela’s passing, that our South African colleagues are the ones who “shared with us the concept of ‘Ubuntu’ – the spiritual understanding that the humanity of each of us is tied to the humanity of all of us, and therefore we must treat each other with great acts of human kindness and deep empathy.” Nelson Mandela was the embodiment of the spirit of Ubuntu.

Mandela himself was quoted defining education as “the greatest weapon you can use to change the world.” As we all know, City Year’s own motto is “give a year, change the world” and we all give that year (if not more) in the highest-need public schools in the U.S., the U.K. and South Africa.

Charlie Rose, Senior Vice President and Dean of City Year, said it best when expressing that “Nelson Mandela’s life was a gift from South Africa to the world. The inspiration of his words and deeds is immortal, and his legacy is now in our hands.” Today, City Year San José/Silicon Valley would like to join City Year, in re-dedicating ourselves to this work in Nelson Mandela’s memory and continue to try and emulate his humility, commitment to social justice, and his unwavering dedication to a cause greater than himself.

An Unforgettable Science Camp Visit

Written by: Roberto Rodriguez, corps member at Aptitud Community Academy at Goss

When I went on a class trip to science camp in sixth grade, I saw it as an experience that would animate the adventures I had only imagined. A precocious and curious student, similar to a few of the fifth graders I work with at Aptitud Community Academy at Goss, I dreamed of exploring and getting lost in the wilderness. In my mind, the woods offered the possibility of learning beyond of the confines an enclosed classroom. This experiential approach to discovery is what is so exciting about science camp; this is also why I enthusiastically agreed to join the fifth grade class at Aptitud on its own journey into the woods.

The heterogeneity of experiences in the fifth grade class meant that there would be students who had never paid a visit to the woods and others who had never even spent a night without their parents. This means that science camp meant a series of “firsts” for most students, and students had the opportunity to bond in ways that they hadn’t before. I was able to accompany many of the students on their first hikes, not to mention the first night hikes that all these students went on. As an avid hiker with a penchant for difficult trails, it was especially exciting to me. I witnessed a group of students excitedly discover a crayfish in a creek, when they had been assigned the much easier task of collecting insects inhabiting the water. We sang camp songs and ate dinner together; we were silly and got to know dimensions of each other that we had not noticed in the context of the normal school day.

The fifth grade can be difficult cohort to manage and this school year started off bumpier than usual: one of the classes had been through two substitutes before finally acquiring its own permanent teacher who had only met the students once before both classes were off to science camp. Science camp was not only, then, an opportunity to reboot the class experience after the first month. I was also able to delve deeper into the minds of the students causing my hair to grey prematurely, to strengthen our relationships and see only the best in each student, regardless of the distress they might wreak. Sitting down with each of the students I tutor, or leading my class in the extended learning program, I recall genuinely special experiences. For this reason, I consider my second visit to science camp to be as equally magical and unforgettable as the first.

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.’

How I Know I am Making a Difference

This morning Jakob shared his story with the guests of our 2nd Annual Deloitte Corporate Breakfast. His words helped fill the room with an understanding the impact City Year is making. Read his story below:

corps member Jakob Rosenberg speaking at the 2nd Annual Deloitte Corporate Breakfast

corps member Jakob Rosenberg speaking at the 2nd Annual Deloitte Corporate Breakfast

My name is Jakob Rosenberg and I’m 23 years old from the Austin, Texas and I’m proudly serving as the Team Leader for the 49ers Foundation Team at Clyde L. Fischer Middle School. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University. I’ve known I wanted to serve a year of national service ever freshman year of college. I see a lot of things in our country that I don’t think are just. I serve because I want to take action and do something, instead of talking or complaining about it. Our youth will one day shape the world. I want to make sure they’re ready for that challenge and are educated to do so positively.

The question I get asked most frequently is how I know I’m making a difference. There are two students during my first corps year last year that really made me realize the impact City Year has. Jose was a new student at Fischer last year who didn’t have many friends. He was in our City Year after-school program and it didn’t take long for him to look up to us as role models. He would even pretend to be a Corps Member, printing out the City Year logo at the library and putting it on his own uniform. He would talk about all the ways he was going to help promote peace and help others. He soon started to make new friends too.  What struck me the most was the letter he gave me on the last day of school that stated how he’ll never forget me, how much we made a difference in his life, and as Jose said, “I know what to be like when I grow up.” This really showed me how we can be such positive role models for our students.

The Honorable Chuck Reed,  Mayor of San Jose and Jakob Rosenberg, corps member

The Honorable Chuck Reed, Mayor of San Jose and Jakob Rosenberg, corps member

Besides being role models on campus, City Year’s primary focus is providing academic coursework support in English and Math. I worked with a 6th grade student struggling in math named Carlos. Carlos began the year receiving a 25% on his math benchmark test and after working with him four times a week for a whole year, Carlos ended up receiving a 80% on his final math benchmark exam. Carlos showed he wasn’t a 25% student, he can reach the goals we made, and he can do what he puts his mind to.

The reason why I’m serving a second year as a Team Leader was because I love the work we do, I know how important it is, and, personally, I wanted to grow and develop myself professionally. I’ve already had opportunities to do this through leading 13 Corps Members who were in my boots last year, observing and giving feedback, as well as ensuring our after-school program runs without fault.

 — Written by Jakob Rosenberg, corps member at the San Francisco 49ers Foundation Team at Fischer Middle School