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Getting Students Back in School, One Door at a Time

An LA city employee and senior corps member Law Murray strategize their outreach route in South Los Angeles.

As the new school year begins, the Los Angeles Unified School District typically sees high numbers of absent students and potential dropouts. To address this issue, the LAUSD organized its third “Student Recovery Day” in which volunteers help recover “No-Show” students; those students who did not return to school for the fall semester. Our 200 corps members, along with employees from the District, the Mayor’s Office and LA’s Community Development Department, deployed to schools all over Los Angeles – from the Valley, to the beaches, East LA, and everywhere in between – going door-to-door to locate students who have not returned and provide them with the support and encouragement they need to go back to school. We also engaged local businesses and asked them to post resources for students who have dropped out. It takes a village for our students to succeed and we were proud to be a part of the city’s efforts to get students back in school and on track to graduate.

A local store owner displaying dropout recovery information for his patrons.

An example of the beautiful street art found in South LA.


Filed under Change the World, Corps Members, Los Angeles, Students, The Dropout Crisis

Reflections of a Training Manager: A look back at Basic Training Academy

By Kristopher Capello, City Year Los Angeles Training Manager

City Year Los Angeles’ 2010 Basic Training Academy, four weeks of day-long trainings preparing corps members to serve as tutors, mentors, and role models in schools across Los Angeles, kicked off on August 17th.

As training manager, this was a huge day for me.

Taking into account a year’s worth of input from the amazing 2009-2010 corps, we started planning for the 2010-2011 corps back in March. From this input, we knew that trainings with more than 150 people together would need to be reconsidered; material would have to be more focused; days would need to be more thematically organized; and at every level, we needed to incorporate City Year’s culture and values into content.

So we built BTA around small learning communities, with most sessions happening with no more than 35 participants, allowing for more discussion and engagement. This initially posed quite a few logistical questions, the most pressing being: With six sessions running simultaneously: where could we hold these trainings and who would facilitate them?

Fortunately, three of our middle school partners, John Liechty, Stevenson, Berendo, offered classrooms, while our staff and senior corps jumped at the opportunity to develop and lead trainings.

We held days dedicated to literacy, mathematics, behavior, and more of the information and skills that corps members need to be effective in supporting students stay in school and on track. With great literacy content supported by the Walmart foundation along with other materials from City Year’s Summer Academy (sponsored by Comcast), Corps Members were provided with a wide array of information that readied them for service.

Aside from practical skills, however, the most exciting for me was watching the corps begin the transition into being a community of education professionals, sharing ideas, questions, and experiences in passionate and profound discussions.

BTA was just the beginning of Corps Member development, both in terms of their service specific to working with youth in academic settings, but also the broader leadership development goals of City Year, and the Corps showed that they took both their development and their service to students and the city extremely seriously. It is exciting to realize that this is only the beginning of the year and we will all work together to continue these discussions, share best practices, and consistently increase our impact with students through our training days on Fridays.  I look forward to using this time to innovate in our work and take on the charge of being a community of education professionals.

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Filed under Change the World, Corps Members, Los Angeles, Service, The Corps Experience, Training

“I Dedicate this Jacket…”

“…To the giants who wore it before me.”
“…To those serving overseas.”
“…To hoping for a better tomorrow.”

On Friday, September 10th, we the City Year Los Angeles corps, completed our final day of BTA (Basic Training Academy). On this day we received our yellow bomber jackets, in the traditional Jacket Ceremony. There is no better way to mark the end of the beginning. On this last day of training, before our launch into a new service year in the great communities of LA, we the 2010 – 2011 CYLA corps became a mighty force in yellow. We are now full fledged teams. We now wear the uniform that children in schools around the country will recognize as a symbol of love, safety, inspiration, and so much more.

This jacket will help us throughout the year. Sometimes it will feel like a cape, as unfamiliar children will call out to us, smiling, as if we are super heroes they’ve seen in action.  At other times, it will be a symbol and a reminder of our purpose. When we look at our bombers, we will think back on the early days, remembering how excited we were to meet those kids and incorporate all the skills we learned in the past weeks and remember why we chose to give a year and change the world. We will remember who and what we dedicated those bombers to, and why.

“…To my ancestors, who survived slavery, Jim Crow… and here I am now.”
“…To my mom, who dedicated her life to me.”
“…To my beloved community… Los Angeles.”

This year, we will perform over 350,000 hours service by supporting students at 14 LAUSD elementary and middle schools, developing middle and high school students as leaders in their community and beautifying the communities we serve. This is going to be an amazing year. We are going to do amazing things.

I dedicate my bomber to the 1,700 corps members across the nation serving alongside me, giving a year to make an impact, to do something bigger than ourselves. The people and communities we serve this year will never forget us, nor will we ever forget them. Thank you for your commitment. Thank you for proudly wearing that City Year bomber.

By Lorena Fiori, Team Leader at Normandie Avenue Elementary

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Filed under Change the World, Corps Members, Events, Los Angeles, National Service, The Corps Experience, Training

Remembering 9/11

We spent Saturday, September 11 in service. In honor of the memory of that day’s events, the City Year staff and all 200 corps members helped Mayor Villaraigosa and other community groups clean up the Stanford Avalon Community Garden in South LA. It was a beautiful day to serve our community.  Check out some pictures below!

Pictured from left: Gabby Torres, Mayor Villaraigosa, Christine Castillo, and Willie Smith

Corps members cleaning up debris.

Mayor Villaraigosa and a group of first year corps members.

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Building Team at Basic Training Retreat

 By: Sarah Bouchereau, External Relations Project Leader
As part of our month long Basic Traing Academy, City Year Los Angeles brings the entire corps together for a fun filled retreat. This year , CYLA gathered at Alpine Meadows in the beautiful San Bernadino mountains.

Team Leader Jyrell Barrientos kicks it off with a break session at Opening Ceremonies.

As the Spirit Chant builds to a roar, I know it’s time for City Year’s annual Basic Training Retreat (BTR). It is Wednesday morning and the newest group of City Year corps members is gathered at headquarters. They’ve arrived with their luggage, as well as their jittery nerves, to find that our office has been transformed and Opening Ceremonies are about to begin. This ceremony will mark the beginning of the much anticipated POWERlympics.  The energy in the room is palpable.  As a senior corps member this is the day that I’ve been awaiting; the day when we would leave downtown as 16 cheering groups, but return as yet another united corps. This year more than 200 corps members will make L.A neighborhoods their own as tutors in the classroom, mentors on the playground and role models after the last bell rings. This day, as the office rattles with stomping feet, marks the beginning of that journey.

To solidify the importance of this moment we gather as a senior corps. “This is it…,” someone whispers, it begins now whether we saw it coming or not. Our approach for this trip will set the tone for the retreat and quite possibly the entire year. So we listen intently as Allison, our Executive Director, commemorates the event. We part the crowd with the now coveted Spirit Stick and wait as the cheer grows louder. Spirit…Spirit…Spirit! In the final moments before we depart, I catch the eye of a former teammate and smile. The corps is here.

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Welcoming the 2010-2011 CYLA Corps

City Year Los Angeles has started preparing our 200 young leaders for their year of service in Los Angeles. We kicked things off with a Candyland-themed meet and greet at CYLA HQ last Friday that was full delicious deserts and daring dance moves. Then we got down to business on Monday with the start of Basic Training Academy, a month-long training program equipping corps members with the skills necessary for the year ahead. After an intense four days, we rounded out the week with our first Unity Rally and community huddle. Check out our photo highlights below! We’re off to a great start and can’t wait to see what the next three weeks of training will bring!

Senior corps members welcoming the new corps members with cupcakes at the CYLA Meet and Greet!

Corps members busting a move!

New corps members! Fresh faces at CYLA!

Corps members being powerfully greeted as they enter CYLA Basic Training Academy Day 1.

CYLA Basic Training Academy Day 1.

The first Unity Rally of the 2010-2011 CYLA corps!

First Unity Rally with Downtown LA as a backdrop.

Coming together as a community for announcements.

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Filed under Change the World, Corps Members, Training