Alumni Spotlight - Emily with City Year
City Year is an education nonprofit that was founded in 1988. City Year volunteers work for an eleven-month commitment with students in high-poverty communities to help build their social, emotional, and academic skills. Emily is currently serving as a City Year volunteer in Watts, California. She graduated from UNO in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Below are a few questions we asked Emily about her experience with City Year.
What inspired you to get involved with City Year?
When I entered my senior year of college, I had no plan or dreams for what I wanted to do after graduation. As the year progressed and second semester started, I started hearing about the lack of educational equity in our nation. I began to reflect on the importance of education, and how no matter where you come from, no one can take your education away from you. My passion for under-resourced communities began to grow and I started looking into non-profits that work with schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods in the hopes of helping others earn that great education that I was able to receive.
How did you get involved with City Year?
Initially, I applied to Teach for America and after going through their grueling interview process, my application was denied. This was a scary time, but with the support and encouragement from friends and family I found City Year and was captivated by their focus on idealism and how fiercely they believe in the power of young people.
What is your experience with City Year so far?
I work at a high school in Watts, California, a neighborhood in Los Angeles. Watts is a community that has been forgotten and disadvantaged ever since they had a spree of deadly uprisings in the 1960's, when the community began to lash out again racism, oppression, and police brutality. Working full-time in this neighborhood this year has given me life-changing insight into just how strong and determined the so-called "forgotten" truly are. Many of my students have moms that hustle hard at two jobs to support their family, they protect themselves against the gang violence that threatens them, and they understand that children from the projects have to work twice as hard to be successful as other students that grow up on the other side of Los Angeles. Seeing the strength and power of Watts has taught me the importance of amplifying the voices of those whose voices have been muffled and help give them the education they deserve.
Why should students consider getting involved with City Year?
I could go on about the skills I have learned, people I have met, and experiences I have had, countless things that will look fancy on resumes and great opportunities for leadership development and teachers and managers who can give you great references in the future. All of these factors are incredible, but the reason you should consider joining City Year is that you would have the chance to meet students like J. He is a student who captured my heart from day one. This year I have watched him fight against the gang involvement that many say he is destined for. As he fights harder than any 14-year-old should have to against the temptations and pressures from his friends and family, I get the joy of witnessing him grow into a man who has unlimited potential. He is the reason I wake up at 5am every day, the reason I deal with the small paycheck, and the reason I can handle missing my family and friends and comfortable life back in Nebraska. He, and so many other students across the nation, are why you should consider applying for City Year.
For more information on City Year, check out their website here.