City Year Celebrates Opening Day 2012!

City Year Seattle/King County corps member, Becka Gross, is serving with the JPMorgan Chase Diplomas Now team at Denny International Middle School. Below she recounts the power of City Year’s Opening Day.

On Friday, September 21, the 2012-13 City Year Seattle/King County corps ran through the doors of City Hall joining an audience of friends, family, board members, donors, and elected officials to officially kick off the start of full-time service in schools. City Year Executive Director, Simon Amiel, fired up the audience and corps, leading them in a chant: “More kids, in school, and on track to succeed!”

City Year corps members, staff, elected officials, donors and community members came together to celebrate Opening Day.

City Year corps members, staff, elected officials, donors and community members came together to celebrate Opening Day.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn shared his support for City Year and the impact he believes our service has on the community. Comcast sponsor and City Year board member, Steve Holmes, also shared his gratitude for the incoming corps, stating that the work of City Year is “changing the forecast for a generation to one of hope.” Another highlight from the event’s program was Jessica Silye, a City Year alumna, who shared the stage with a former student she worked with, Sam Martin. Together they described how both of their lives were profoundly impacted by their experiences together and the work of City Year.

City Year alumna, Jessica Silye, and her former student, Sam Martin, talk about the experience they shared together through City Year.

City Year alumna, Jessica Silye, and her former student, Sam Martin, talk about the experience they shared together through City Year.

The keynote address came from corps member and recent graduate of Garfield High School, Mohamed Adan, who inspired the crowd with his life story and passion for service.  After fleeing chaos and violence in Somalia, Adan’s family sought refuge in Kenya and eventually was granted political asylum in the United States. Adan entered Seattle’s public school system at six years old and found in the years to follow that the new language and culture created great barriers against his academic success. While recalling teachers suggesting to his class that they ask their parents for homework help, Adan said with a grin, “my parents didn’t speak a lick of English and attempting to solicit their help on my homework would have resulted in blank stares or a whole lot of head scratching.” Though his teachers were supportive and dedicated, they did not have the resources to provide the individualized support necessary to foster each student.

City Year corps member, Mohamed Adan, shares his experience of growing up in Seattle and what inspired him to serve his community.

City Year corps member, Mohamed Adan, shares his experience of growing up in Seattle and what inspired him to serve his community.

Adan reminisced about the people in his life who believed in him, helped him overcome the setbacks he encountered, and ensured his success. People in his school and community “who dedicated themselves to education. Who believed in the potential of every student to succeed, and who worked hard in difficult situations and with limited resources because they knew the tremendous impact education could have upon their students.”

The community support, words of encouragement, and palpable enthusiasm of Adan reminded the corps, and each member of the audience, of the vital importance of the mission they are embarking upon. We can’t wait to see the impact that each of our 67 corps members makes this year!

*To see more photos from Opening Day, click here.

Comcast Cares Day 2012

For the past 11 years, Comcast employees across the country have participated in one of the nation’s biggest single-day volunteer efforts: Comcast Cares Day. On Saturday, April 21, 2012, this inspiring day of service took place in many cities across our nation including Seattle.

Comcast employees and City Year corps members have worked together to improve their communities for over ten years.

Comcast employees from Seattle and the surrounding areas returned to El Centro de la Raza on Beacon Hill for a second year in a row. El Centro is a community hub for advocacy on behalf of the Latino Community in Seattle. Through their comprehensive programs and services, El Centro works to build unity across all racial and economic sectors, to organize, empower, and defend the most vulnerable and marginalized populations and to bring justice, dignity, equality, and freedom to all the peoples of the world.

In total, 190 Comcast employees participated in a variety of important service projects at El Centro de la Raza including painting, groundswork and pavement repairs. The combined effort of the time contributed by volunteers resulted in $25,000 worth of financial capital of the day’s service.

Thanks to everyone who participated!

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Comcast Service Project at Woodland Park

On Friday, March 10th, City Year corps members collaborated with Seattle’s Parks and Recreation Department, members of the Washington Conservation Corps as well as students from Billings Middle School* to support recreational access to the Woodland Park for Seattle residents.

Comcast supports City Year service projects throughout the year.

Together these three groups worked to lay almost 70 feet of gravel and planted over a hundred plants and young trees.

“It was great to see how much trail building we were able to complete in such a limited amount of time. Working together made the most challenging aspects of the day enjoyable,” said a City Year Seattle corps member.

City Year Seattle is so grateful that Comcast has made projects like this possible for the Seattle corps!

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*Pictures and information of this service project are limited due to the priority of student privacy.

Comcast Service Day: Habitat for Humanity

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Fridays offer City Year a unique opportunity for corps members, like myself, to serve their community beyond their daily in-school tutoring. On Fridays, in addition to out of school service, corps members are trained to develop as better mentors and … Continue reading

City Year Seattle’s Opening Day Ceremony

Originally from Albuquerque and a graduate of the University of New Mexico, Jonath Ochsankehl is a City Year Seattle/King County corps member serving at Dearborn Park Elementary School. In the post below, Jonath reflects on his first month of service in Seattle and the 2011 Opening Day ceremony.

Jonath Ochsankehl (far right) and fellow Corps Members take time to enjoy their Opening Day Ceremony

On October 7th, 2011, City Year corps members from across the nation celebrated Opening Day. In preparation for the event I found myself hammering out Double-D stomps (a Physical Training move), memorizing the City Year pledge, and constantly being reminded of the reasons why I chose to serve. Initially I was unsure of the purpose of the Opening Day Ceremony, but one of my fellow corps members gave light to its significance when she explained that it was the one day out of ten months where the focus would be on us. It would be a brief couple hours where we would not merely be reminded of, but celebrated for, our commitment to serve– until we were inevitably sent back to our respective schools to spend our time and energy dedicated to making children aware of how amazing they are, how much the world has to offer them, and paving the way for them to succeed.

Corps Members stand at formation before demonstrating Physical Training or "PT"

I stood inside Town Hall that wet, Seattle morning and proudly took the pledge to serve to the best of my ability. While I may not yet know the impact I will have on the children I currently work with, corps member, Jessie Curry inspired all of our service during her address to the corps.

Corps Member Speaker Jessie Curry (far right) with City Year Seattle Staff Members

When Jessie Curry was handed the hammer of service from a member of last year’s corps, she spoke to us about how many of her students at Wing Luke Elementary ask about members of last year’s corps and reminded us that next year we will be “those corps members who made such an impact on the students we serve that we are remembered even over an entire summer and beyond.” While it saddens me to be reminded of my departure from this program so near the start of my service, it also inspires me on those difficult days when I question my abilities as a mentor due to unfocused and challenging students.

City Councilmember Tim Burgess Speaks to the 2011-2012 City Year Seattle Corps

Opening Day reminded me not only of the difference we as a corps will be making in the lives of numerous children, but also of the support we have from the Seattle community. City Year supporters attending Opening Day included National Leadership Sponsors like Comcast and local Seattle sponsors including JP Morgan Chase, NELA,  and Macy’s as well as Seattle City Councilmember, Tim Burgess, Seattle Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Susan Enfield, Dearborn Park Elementary Principal, Angela Bogan, and local and National City Year Board Members. That morning amidst City Year champions I felt connected to our own brother and sister City Year sites across the world united in a common goal as stated in the City Year pledge:

I pledge…

To serve as a city year member to the very best of my ability,

To honor the rules and expectations of City Year,

To respect my colleagues and the people and communities we serve,

To provide excellent service,

To lead by example and be a role model to children,

To celebrate the diversity of people, ideas and cultures around me,

To serve with an open heart and an open mind,

To be quick to help and slow to judge,

To do my best to make a difference in the lives of others

And to build a stronger community, nation and world for all of us.

Text by Jonath Ochsankehl, City Year Seattle/King County corps member