UC Riverside Graduates and Students Making a Big Difference Through City Year Program

Students' dedication to service continues for 35 UCR grads participating in the program in 2012

Farah Noor, a 2011 graduate of UC Riverside, is giving back to the community through the AmeriCorps City Year program. Photo courtesy of City Year

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — When Farah Noor graduated from UC Riverside with a bachelor’s degree in public policy in 2011, her goal was to eventually become an education policymaker on the federal level. But to reach that goal, she knew she needed to some first-hand experience working with students and teachers in the classroom. The question was how to do it?

The answer was the AmeriCorps’ City Year, a non-profit organization founded in 1988 focused on helping to keep young people from dropping out of school by placing participants as tutors, mentors and role models. The program serves 24 cities in the United States as well as Johannesburg, South Africa and London, England. The program works with at-risk students between the third and ninth grades in communities where the dropout challenge is most concentrated. Working as partners with public schools, City Year provides extra people power to help young people stay on the path to graduation, with a goal of having 80% of students who reach 10th grade graduate on track and on time.

Noor was one of 35 UC Riverside graduates and students accepted into City Year program in the 2012 recruiting cycle, the most of any school in the country.

Assistant Dean of Students Tonantzin Oseguera said she wasn’t surprised at all by the volume of participation by UCR students due to the university’s dedication to public service.

“Our students are very dedicated and serious about being involved with community service and paying it forward,” Oseguera said. “The first message students receive when they come to orientation is that they need to become involved in a student organization, and may choose organizations that have service as one of the tenets or core of what they do.”

Noor is a perfect example.

“I chose to participate in City Year because I am very passionate about education reform. In order to write effective policy, I knew I had to get classroom experience,” Noor said. “The experience of a corps member is so well-rounded – you see the school from all directions; as an administrator, a teacher and a student.”

But once Noor got into the program, she realized that it had so much more to offer, both to her and to the students that she works with on a day-to-day basis.

“Since joining City Year, my reason for serving as changed. I am here for my students because I want them to know that they have all the potential in the world and I want to help them realize it,” she said.

Noor said that her typical day begins at 7 a.m. when she arrives at John Muir Middle School in Los Angeles to meet, greet and engage students as they arrive at the school. She then works with 7th grade students in their English and math classes, providing additional help to students who need it. When not working with the students, members of the corps meet for continuing education programs. At the end of the school day until 6 p.m., the City Year team staffs an after-school program that provides students with a place to do their homework, work on fundamentals and engage with mentors.

City Year corps members must be between 17 and 24, have a college degree, or have a high school diploma or GED and have attended some college and be able to dedicate 10 months to full-time service. They receive a modest stipend for living expenses and, at the end of their service, an education award of $5,550 that can be applied towards a college degree, graduate school or existing or future student loans. Other benefits include basic health care coverage, child care coverage, a uniform and a work cell phone.

“We look for motivated, service-minded graduates who are willing to commit to ten months of service and serve a cause greater than oneself,” said Bert Rivera, recruitment manager for City Year. “Experiences with leadership, working with youth, working on diverse teams and service are all qualities we look for in applicants.”

A commitment to public service is nothing new for UCR students. In August the university was recognized by Washington Monthly’s College Ranking survey as first overall among national universities in student service participation. In March UCR was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction in recognition of students’ volunteer efforts.

Rivera said that the program received over 11,000 applications nationally for 2,500 positions, and that recruiters placed an emphasis on recruiting students from UCR.

“We increased our focus on UCR recruiting, having people visit campus at least once per month,” he said. “The alumni in our program did a lot of outreach to their friends still at UCR. Many were involved with student groups on campus and reached out to them.”

shot of the People Magazine page

Aaron Clark, a 2011 graduate of UCR, was profiled in People Magazine for his efforts with the City Year program. Courtesy of People Magazine

Of the UCR students participating in the program, 24 are serving in the Los Angeles area, with others serving in Boston, Chicago, Miami, New York, San Jose, Sacramento and Orlando. Another UCR graduate, Aaron Clark, was featured in People Magazine on June 11 as a hero who makes a difference thanks to his work with students at Markham Middle School in Los Angeles’ Watts district.

Noor said City Year is a natural evolution for students looking to continue giving back to the community.

“City Year is an invaluable opportunity to really get to know yourself in a challenging work environment while receiving incredible leadership development,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to say thanks by giving back to those in a community that needs it.”

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-4756
E-mail: john.warren@ucr.edu

Additional Contacts

Philip Javellana, Senior Communications & Brand Manager
Tel: (213) 596-5904
E-mail: pjavellana@cityyear.org

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