Growing up in the Kansas City area, I had no idea that one day I would return to my hometown to help launch City Year Kansas City, the 27th and newest site of City Year, a national service organization that helps students and schools succeed.
Yet on Friday, September 16, I was filled with pride as 50 City Year Kansas City AmeriCorps members, in signature City Year red jackets, publicly committed to a year of full-time service at our inaugural Opening Day Ceremony. More than 150 guests were welcomed by our AmeriCorps members, in addition to the Chiefs Rumble Crew, for this high-energy event. I was humbled that Chiefs President and Founding City Year Kansas City Board Chair Mark Donovan, Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell, Kauffman Foundation Director of Education Corey Scholes and City Year Co-Founder and CEO Michael Brown all joined us to thank the AmeriCorps members for the work they will do this year in Kansas City public schools.
After spending the last 11 years working with City Year to support students and schools in Washington, DC, it has been a privilege to come home and partner with so many people across this town to ensure that students in Kansas City have the academic and social-emotional resources they need to succeed in school and in life. It truly was a community-wide effort to launch City Year Kansas City. And it could not have been done without partnerships with the Office of Kansas City Mayor Sly James, Kansas City Public Schools, AmeriCorps, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Hall Family Foundation, as well as many other dedicated community and business leaders.
Because of their vision, commitment and generous support, we implemented a pilot in two Kansas City schools last year and, as of this fall, we officially launched our partnership with five high-need Kansas City schools.
Today, I am proud to say, City Year deploys teams of eight to twelve AmeriCorps members to work full-time with students in four Kansas City Public Schools (Central Middle School, Central Academy of Excellence, Northeast Middle School and Northeast High School) and one public charter school (the Ewing Marion Kauffman School). Our goal is to partner with teachers to keep students in school and on track to graduate.
City Year AmeriCorps members serve students before the first bell rings in the morning and continue until the last student leaves the after-school program, seeking to improve student academic achievement and build critical workforce skills such as goal setting, persistence and self-management.
Our “near peer” AmeriCorps members receive more than 300 hours of training and professional development. They learn how to deliver integrated, research-based interventions to students who need support in attendance, behavior and course performance in math and English. They provide one-on-one tutoring and whole class support, as well as school-wide programs that increase academic achievement and build a positive school climate.
Research shows that the City Year Whole School, Whole Child Model is effective. A recent third-party study examined the impact of the model on City Year’s partner schools’ academic performance in comparison to similar schools without City Year. It found that schools with teams of City Year AmeriCorps members were two times more likely to increase English Language Arts (ELA) and up to three times more likely to increase math proficiency rates compared with similar schools that did not partner with City Year. In addition, schools that partnered with City Year also gained the equivalent of approximately one month of additional learning in math and ELA.
In Kansas City, the City Year model has already generated positive results. For example, during our pilot year, significant gains in attendance were realized in partnership with the teachers and staff at Central Middle School. Students that City Year worked with had an average attendance increase of three weeks as compared to the previous year. At a school-wide level, the number of students attending at least 90% of the time increased by 33% over the prior year.
During our Opening Day Ceremony, as I watched all 50 City Year Kansas City AmeriCorps members stand, raise their hands and take the City Year and AmeriCorps pledge, I was grateful for the young people who are dedicating a year of their lives to the students of Kansas City, the hometown I now share with my own two little girls.
I also had a deep sense of gratitude for all of the leaders across the Kansas City community who have worked so hard to make City Year Kansas City come to life and who work every day to support to improve educational outcomes for students in our city.
As long as we continue to work together, we can help the students and schools of Kansas City succeed.
Written by Audra Clark, Executive Director, City Year Kansas City