Each year, approximately one million kids drop out of school in the United States.
City Year, a paid mentorship program, seeks to combat this problem with a unique approach: stationing volunteers as teaching assistants and personal tutors in inner-city classrooms to encourage and support struggling students.
Currently, four UT graduates are members of the City Year corps of volunteers. On Monday, City Year National Recruitment Manager Tim McGee made a visit to campus to talk about this opportunity, as well as the recruitment process.
Focusing primarily on grades 3-9, City Year pools volunteers from universities around the country.
"That's where we recruit; that's where we find our talent," McGee said. "We have about 2,700 corps members this year who are all in the classrooms as we speak working, and about 80 percent of them are college graduates."
As one of the UT graduates working for City Year, Gabrielle Clark is working at a high school in south Philadelphia.
"I was really interested in nonprofit organizations, and as I researched them, I came across City Year," Clark said. "I think UT students should definitely apply for City Year because, while we are earning our four-year degree, it is beneficial to give a year to the younger generation and help to change the world. We are the volunteers, so giving a year would be the right thing to do."
Over the course of a year, City Year members work in conjunction with inner-city public schools where students are dropping out at the highest rates in the country.
Some of these schools have dropout rates of 50 percent.
At the end of their service each City Year member receives a $5,550 Segal Education Award to be used for student loans or graduate school tuition, and is also eligible for scholarships available only to City Year alumni.
Currently, there are 25 U.S. locations and two international institutions where students can find tutoring in math and English, hopefully helping them proceed to the next grade level.
"We are there before the kids arrive, meeting them as they get of the bus and getting them fired up for a day of learning," McGee said. "Sometimes we play music and dance, and you'll find that the students really do respond to it."
During the school day, City Year works alongside teachers in a collaborative effort.
"We are in the classroom with the teacher 7 out of 9 periods during the day, but we can do pullouts for behavior issues as well as math and literacy interventions," Clark said.
Aside from encouraging the students academically, City Year aids with community and school improvements by organizing service projects, supervising clubs and facilitating after-school programs.
"We do several things outside the classroom such as planting gardens and painting murals," Clark said. "We do anything we can to make the learning environment a little bit more welcoming."