There could not be a better word to describe this time of the year for corps members than bittersweet. The beginning of the fourth marking period comes with much excitement as it signifies that the year of service, which brought many unforeseen challenges and difficulties, is coming to a close. However, we soon come to the realization that the end of the year also means saying goodbye to our students, teachers, and teams. Even those who found aspects of the experience challenging still formed connections and built relationships in their communities and schools. Saying goodbye is just not easy. Let’s not dwell on the perspective that those relationships are over– Let’s rejoice with the perspective that we were fortunate enough to build them.

Pierre Lucien

First year Corps Member, the CSX team at South High School


UPCOMING: Global Youth Service Day

GYSD collage

Hey Idealists!

Remember to join CYCO for Global Youth Service Day on Saturday, April 12th.

Maybe you’re a young person looking to serve. Maybe you’re an incoming corps member looking for a way to get involved early. Maybe you’re a student and need something to flesh out your resume. No matter the circumstances, Global Youth Service Day is the place to be!

CYCO will host two service opportunities:

10am-1pm, Beautification of Mifflin Middle School
3000 Agler Rd, Columbus, OH 43219

10am-2pm, Clean Up of Linden McKinley STEM Academy
1320 Duxberry Ave, Columbus, OH 43211

I do it for the kids

I do it for the kids.

 Superheroes of Victoria

I recently attended a final interview for a teacher preparation program. I drove 7 hours, post Pi Day event, all the way to D.C. for a chance at becoming one of the most skilled teachers in the country. Something I heard during the question and answer segment of my interview has been on my mind ever since.

One of the current residents said that if you think you’re going to be a hero, and save all of these kids, then you need to reevaluate your motivations for pursuing a career in urban education. The words struck me as harsh but exceedingly true.

I’ll be the first one to admit that I do what I do with City Year for my students. I care deeply about each and every one of them. City Year is tough. This year has pushed me to my limits, but each time I want to give up, I think about the faces of the kids I work with. I come to school to watch them progress and to have the honor of being a support for their growth.

I do not see myself as a savior. I am not a hero. My students are heroes. My students are the most amazing people I’ve ever met. They inspire me, and though I tutor and mentor them, they teach me so much. So when I reflect on the words I heard at this interview, I find myself double checking my values and my motivations.

The state of education, in general, is in desperate need of reform. Low income, underserved, disadvantaged, urban schools in particular need change. I believe that education is a right and that every child, no matter where they come from, deserves a quality education. I believe that change in a community comes from within.

I think about City Year and our ability to partner with members of community and community organizations to create sustainable change. I can only speak for myself, but I am not swooping into Linden on a white horse. That isn’t what anyone needs. My kids don’t need to be saved. No, I am a very small cog in the immense mechanical organism of change. I form relationships, help raise some grades and test scores, and hopefully make school a better place for my kids. Maybe they’ll remember me when they’re older, maybe they won’t. But they will never forget the diploma they get 4 years from now.


Darcy McCarthy, first year Corps Member, the AT&T team at Linden McKinley STEM Academy





Pushing Through

concrete flower

The final 2 months of our 10 month commitment are among us. And as I begin to interact and converse with many corps members, I cannot help but to notice the mental state that we are all in—tired, apathetic, and mentally distraught. The City Year journey tells us that the storming phase usually happens around November through January, but what are we to do when it comes in March? What are we to do when apathy has dried up every ounce of idealism in our bones? What are we to do when there seems like there is no end to this storm?

no pain no gain

I can honestly say that the storm never truly ends, especially when discussing the nation’s drop out crisis. The intensity of the storm changes, which we cannot control; but some days will be easier than others. I have noticed that perspective is a crucial piece in our mental state throughout this journey and that the way we react to the storm is the key to success. Here are a few concrete ways for you to keep things in perspective as we sprint this homestretch:

  1. Become aware of those things that you have influence over, and place your emphasis and focus on the things that you have control over.
  2. When you are in the midst of a power struggle with your students, focus on how your body reacts and consciously take slow, deep breaths—or better yet, walk away.
  3. Of course humor, dance, and music will always get you by. Studies show that listening to slow music decreases blood pressure (
  4. And we cannot forget food! Coordinate one day out of the month for a team potluck lunch. Place a theme around each potluck and play into it.
  5. Hone in on ways to relieve stress (i.e. lighting candles, taking baths, drinking chamomile tea, sleeping with lavender scents)
  6. Keep your eye on the prize! Student success, City Year Graduation, and that Segal Education Award.

–Tamar Carr,  second year Team Leader, Chase Team at Mifflin High School

Open Letter to my Red Jacket

Dear Red Jacket,

I love you. I love you, not only because you make me the most popular person on the COTA bus and do your best to keep out the winter cold. I love you because you help me recognize my team in the morning, and sometimes strangers who are wearing similarly bright red and khakis for some unknown reason. The organization has changed in 25 years, you have shifted shades, gained and lost fleece linings but ultimately have stayed the same. Our students need stability, and although the body that wears you differs from year to year, they recognize the color and the logo and you are always greeted with hugs and smiles.

Red Jacket, I am so much stronger with you than I am by myself. I have the strength of all the corps members who came before me. I sometimes rub my patch and imagine that they are giving me advice or encouraging me to get through the day. I like to pretend that I am my own hero, Super Tutor, and can save all the students who are off-track with a single power greeting. You make me believe I can, and I work that much harder to make it so.

Red Jacket, you are my armor, and together we do battle against the dragon known as Apathy. You protect my idealist heart from frustration, indifference, and exhaustion. We parry and thrust our sword of passionate service right into the beast’s throat and slay it for that moment, or day or week. There will always be dragons, but I hope there will be just as many red jackets and service warriors to take up the good fight.

— Hope Hill, Second Year Corps Member, the AT&T team at LMSA

Join us at Red Jacket Ball
2014 City Year Columbus Gala

Saturday April 5th, 2014
6pm to 9pm
LBrands Headquarters
Three Limited Parkway, Columbus

red jacket collage

Life Before Morning Circle

7 ways to make the most of your morning


By 6:45am, City Year corps members are ready to serve with an open mind, positive can-do, and a soul generated by love. But life before 6:45 can be rough. Fortunately, there are things we can do to prime ourselves for a more powerful, more enjoyable day of service.

1. Prepare beforehand.


Cut down on the amount of time you need in the morning by taking care of business before you go to bed. You can wake up to a prepared lunch ready to go from the fridge, and even a prepared breakfast (you can cook oatmeal overnight in a crockpot, for example). Take a few extra minutes in the morning to grind your coffee, pack your backpack, and press you pants (you do press your pants, right?). This step will free up time for some extra sleep, or the time you’ll need to implement these other helpful tips.

2. Set an alarm that works for you.


Some people need to be gently roused from sleep by soft, bright music like subtle rays of sonic sunshine. Others need an air raid siren without a snooze button. Experiment to find a system that gets you up best so you can be awake on time and in a good mood.

3. Hydrate!


Hydrogen hydroxide is the best substance to wake up your mind and body. The caffeine in coffee will have a stimulant effect on your brain, but coffee dehydrates the body and can make a morning even more difficult. Whether you drink coffee or not, water is essential to life, especially life before morning circle!

4. Get loose!


Cats stretch every day because cats know things. We could learn a lot from cats. Stretching is a great way to wake up more fully. You can up the ante by doing some calisthenics, or go varsity by making it to the gym before service (your team will be impressed).

5. Get Centered.


Mental and spiritual health are important aspects of self-care. Take a few minutes each morning to pray or meditate. Pausing to breathe and know where and how you exist can make a big difference in your disposition, giving you a foundation for confidence.

6. Eat Breakfast.


Cars and buses don’t run without fuel. Bodies and minds don’t either. Nobody’s got the time or metabolism for eggs benedict every day, but breakfast should be a priority. Find something quick and delicious, make a healthy smoothie to go, or refer back to point 1.

7. Get the sleep you need.


Bedtimes aren’t just for kids. Setting a hard deadline to be in bed can be part of a healthy adult rhythm. Take a minute to think about how much rest you need and make that rest a priority. This might involve some sacrifice, but being well-rested will help keep you healthy, productive and positive.

— Ben Jenkins, first year corps member at Mifflin Middle School

Survival Kit

Hey Corps Members! How you feelin’?

At this point, those of you reading this probably half-heartedly mumbled “fired up” while you rubbed your hands together for warmth.

It’s February. It’s cold. You’re tired. Maybe you just got interim grades that were not particularly inspiring. 6:45 seems earlier and earlier in the morning each time the alarm goes off. I get it. Believe me, I do!

But as a second year corps member, I am here to tell you, promise you, that it is going to get better. You may be suffering from a seasonal disorder known as the City Year Flu (Which is occasionally accompanied by an actual flu. Feel better, guys.), but all is not lost! Here are the eight things you need to survive the winter doldrums.

1. Marbles
photo by Sahlan Hayes

Some people are going to accuse you of having lost them. Prove them wrong no matter what by keeping them on you at all times!

2. Vitamin D
photo by Changing for Health

On a serious note, we really don’t see the sun that much. It hasn’t woken up yet when we head to service, and then we kind of wave at it on the drive home. It’s important to remember that being in the dark really does affect your mood, and take steps to stay healthy.
3. Stickers
photo by Amy Dell

These are a reminder to stick to your goals. They’re also fun. Seriously, put an Angry Birds sticker on your Check-In/Check-Out tracker when a student met the weekly goal and they’ll go nuts.

4. Tea
product from FoodBeast

I am not a coffee drinker, but I am a huge advocate for tea. It tastes great, comes in all different flavors and is great for sore throats and your mood!

5. An Eraser
photo by Kalin Plante
To wipe away your mistakes.

6. White out
Because let’s be honest, sometimes you make the above mistakes in pen and an eraser won’t cut it.
7. Something to look forward to.
photo by Kid President
Expecting a gift or being excited for something has a positive effect on your mood. Don’t have your boots yet? They’re coming! It’ll be like a present!

8. Tissues
photo by Peaceful Parent
Keep these on hand to wipe away your students’ tears.

Or yours.

… Mostly yours.
-Mirria Martin, second year corps member at Mifflin HIgh School