City Year

Tools

by Jennifer Tomazic

MILWAUKEE -- How did your city year turn out?

You know, the one after your senior year of high school or college.

That's the idea behind a new, young adult service organization in it's inaugural year in Milwaukee called City Year.

"Everyone has a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior year and the founders thought everyone should have a city year too-a year to serve the community," said Milwaukee chapter executive director Jason Holton.

The organization, that's in 20 United States cities, just expanded to Milwaukee this year. There are 60 men and women between the age of 17 and 24 working in nine different Milwaukee Public Schools.

The young adults give 10 months to the organization and to the kids.

"Everything we do focuses on how we can get the students attendance to increase, how we can get their behavior to get better and how we can improve their course work in either math and english," said Alexander Mitchell team lead Will Reichardt.

They help the students by pulling out small groups in class that might be getting behind or tutoring the students one on one.

"They always help us when we need help. it's like they're always here for us, for better or for worse," said 8th grader Zachary Zielenski.

But beyond the school work, it's the relationships the City Year Core Members build with the students that really seem to resonate. They eat lunch with the kids and really get to know them.

"We actually talk about a lot of stuff and it gets us better relationship with the City Year members," said 8th grader Nicole Rodriguez.

That's because the Core Members speak the kids' language.

"His name is Walker and he's next on the list. He gets his reputation because he does it like this," chant nine City Year Core Members as hundreds of students dance along with them.

Each morning, they start their day with the morning greeting outside the primary school. They do cheers to get the kids ready for a successful day in the classroom.

"It gets us focused," said 8th grader Richard Valero. "When you come to school, you're not really focused because you're just waking up and so everything focuses on City Year."

But the Core Members say everything focuses on the students. And that's why team leader Reichardt can't get enough of the organization.

Usually, young adults do City Year for one year, but Reichardt, who is from Waukesha, did it in San Jose last year and in Milwaukee this year.

"I get so much out of being at this school," said Reichardt. "I wake up every morning knowing I'm going to make a tangible difference in a teammates life or a student's life."

The focus this year is on third through eighth grades. Holton says he hopes catching the kids early helps graduation rates in the long run.

"We want to get those students as early as possible that are waving their hands saying 'help, chose me. I need a little extra help to get back on track.,'" said Holton.

The core members volunteer all their time but are given a stipend for rent. Most days they're at the school before the bell and well after it. They also do community service projects.

City Year is in 20 different U.S. cities

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