March 31, 2014

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March 14, 2014

Celebrate Math Today with a Slice of “Pi”


By Mari Mermelstein, Online Math Content Specialist, City Year, Inc. 

There are few numbers more loved than Pi. It’s so loved in fact, that we have an entire day (today!) dedicated to celebrating it. As there are not too many mathematical celebrations throughout the year, I feel as though we must ask ourselves, what’s different about Pi? What is it about this number that hooks people into the world of mathematics? Maybe it has something to do with Pi being a non-terminating, non-repeating decimal? Maybe all the excitement stems from the fact that Pi and pie are homophones, and who doesn’t like things that involve pie?!?

No matter the reason, Pi Day presents us with the perfect platform to celebrate mathematics in general and promote a more math friendly culture for our students in schools. We can do this by providing opportunities for students to engage with and succeed with math in low-stakes situations. Take, for instance, this City Year team that turned their Pi Day celebrations into an opportunity to get students excited about improving their fact fluency skills:

The Howe School of Excellence, a middle school in the Austin Community of Chicago, IL, is celebrating Pi Day by providing students the opportunity to earn the privilege to pie their teachers, administrators, and City Year corps members in the face! In the weeks leading up to Pi Day, students could earn a “pie slice” if they completed a fact fluency worksheet with 80% correctness in two minutes or less. Eight “slices” equates to one pie. Today, during our Pi Day event, students will turn in their paper pies for real pies and get the chance to “Pi” the person of their choice in the face!

Another school offering the opportunity to pie a corps member or teacher in the face is the Walker Middle School in Orlando, FL. Yesterday, corps members gave every math teacher a pi-related problem. The first student to finish the problem in each class was entered into the pie throwing raffle. One winner from each grade level was declared over the morning announcements today, and during lunch the festivities will begin.

Curious how others across the network are celebrating Pi Day? You can follow all of the action with the hashtag: #CYPiDay


Looking for some last-minute ways to learn about and celebrate Pi Day?

Pi Day – Your Pi Day home base for videos, news & events, and other fun pi sightings.

Pi Day Fun Facts! Read about various ways people have approximated pi using other polygons, darts, and continued fractions.

Teach Pi: It’s easy to just think about the mathematical applications of pi without thinking about the people behind pi.  Along with great pi-related activities, this website features stories to help tell the “human history behind pi” such as the high schooler who memorized over 10,000 digits of pi, the Congressional vote to officially recognize Pi Day, and the origin of the Pi Day rap: “Lose Yourself in the Digits!”

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March 6, 2014

Comcast Helps Strengthens Corps Members Professional Skills through a Long-Standing Partnership

photo by Elliot Haney

Corps members from Boston and New Hampshire joined Comcast NBCUniversal employees at Comcast Career Day in Boston, MA | Photo by Elliot Haney

Since 2001, Comcast NBCUniversal and City Year have forged a strong partnership that is dedicated to supporting young leaders who have made a commitment to service.  As one of City Year’s largest national partners, Comcast serves as City Year’s Opening Day sponsor nationwide and sponsors 12 City Year teams across the country.

Comcast NBCUniversal also partners with City Year to host Comcast Career Day. Comcast NBCUniversal invests in City Year corps members’ futures in the workplace during these annual career day workshops, which focus on strengthening their career skills and career-readiness. Comcast NBCUniversal employees generously give their time and experience by working one-on-one with corps members, running motivational workshops and conducting mock job interviews.

Since 2005 Comcast Career Day has hosted over 7,000 corps members, helping them improve their professional skills and explore career opportunities, including those at Comcast NBCUniversal. As we look forward to upcoming career days across the country, we sat down with a City Year corps member and a Comcast NBCUniversal employee to talk about their experiences at the Boston Comcast Career Day, which took place in January.

Courtney Johnson, City Year corps member, serving on the Comcast NBCUniversal Team at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School

Q: Comcast Career Day is an event for corps members to develop professional and leadership skills. What were you most looking forward to learning at Career Day? What is the most important lesson you took away from the day?

A: Going into Comcast Career Day, I was really looking forward to learning more about Personal Branding.  I knew that City Year would be a transformational experience for me, allowing me to strengthen my professional development in addition to first-hand experience, so I was looking forward to gaining more advice from current workforce employees. I not only enjoyed the presentation of the Personal Branding workshop by Kevin Riffe, director of technical operations at Comcast NBCUniversal , but I also enjoyed the genuineness of the message.  Mr. Riffe stressed the importance of authenticity; he encouraged us to be ourselves and to strive to communicate in a professional manner.  I gained the advice that I needed to be myself professionally.

Q: Comcast Career Day was full of mock interviews and workshops to prepare you for real-life scenarios; do you have a favorite moment from the day?

A: One of my favorite moments was my mock interview. I serendipitously got paired with Suzanne Hovhannesian, Vice President, Talent Acquisition at Comcast NBCUniversal, with whom I had an impactful conversation.  Ms. Hovhannesian, very welcoming and personable, challenged me with thought-provoking questions that allowed me to reflect on my future in ways that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

I also deeply enjoyed the speech from the Boston City Councilor At-Large, Ayanna Pressley. I really connected with her as we shared similar backgrounds, in addition to similar values.  Her confidence and determination in her work were tangible, and very inspirational.

photo by Elliot Haney photo by Elliot Haney

Q: Comcast NBCUniversal employees run all of the workshops throughout the day. Why do you think it is important to learn certain professional and workforce skills through experienced employees?

Having Comcast NBCUniversal employees run the workshops made the day more powerful knowing that it was an event that Comcast NBCUniversal personally invests in.  It really showed that Comcast NBCUniversal truly believes in the service of those they support, which made the presentations that much more significant to me.  This allowed me to connect more the presenters and absorb the information easily.

photo by Elliot Haney

Comcast NBCUniversal employees lead career discussions with corps members | Photo by Elliot Haney

Q: How do you feel Comcast Career Day has prepared you to enter the workforce after your year of service with City Year?

I think Comcast Career Day really helped cement the mindset that every interaction is an opportunity to network.  It reinforced the importance of professional etiquette, both in person and online.  I gained advice on how to update and properly use my LinkedIn account for networking and job searching.  Comcast Career Day really put me into the professional mindset I needed to delve deeper into plans after serving with City Year.

Kevin Riffe, Director of Technical Operations, Comcast NBCUniversal

Q: Comcast NBCUniversal and City Year have a long-standing and strong partnership. How does Comcast Career Day enhance that partnership for both organizations?

A: At Comcast we pride ourselves on our local presence within the communities we serve. Being able to partner with an organization such as City Year connects the dots for our employees. It is certainly one of the more rewarding things that we do as Comcasters.

Q: Why is it so important for Comcast NBCUniversal employees to volunteer their time and expertise at Comcast Career Day?

A: It’s really all about giving back to the community. Many of us have had, and still have, mentors and being able to help and guide the corps members is a rewarding experience.

Q: How can the workshops, mock interviews and career insights give City Year corps members a fresh perspective on professional and leadership skills?

A: We try to “keep it real” for the corps members and really try to give them some experiences that can apply to the business world that they will all be entering very soon.

Q: You led a motivating Career Development workshop at this year’s Comcast Career Day. What was that workshop like and what was the main point you hope the corps members took from it?

A: I certainly have a passion for my workshop, “Personal Branding.”  I think it is so important that one figures out what their brand is early on in their career and understands how critical it can be to their success. I hoped that the corps members all walked away with a good understanding of the main components of personal branding and how important building and communicating their brand is. I also hoped they had some fun, too.

photo by Elliot Haney

Riffe lead a personal branding workshop with corps members | Photo by Elliot Haney

Q: What was your favorite moment from this year’s Comcast Career Day? 

A: When a corps member takes the time to stay behind and personally thank me for the session or simply make a connection, it makes the day so worthwhile.

In 2014, Comcast NBCUniversal expects to have over 1,400 City Year corps members participate in Career Day, and will host Career Day in the following cities; Detroit, Washington DC, Miami, Little Rock, Philadelphia, Chicago, Orlando, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, Jacksonville, Sacramento, San Jose and Seattle.

Kevin Kevin Riffe started in the industry in 1982 and has held many leadership roles. In his current role as Director of Technical Operations at Comcast NBCUniversal, he oversees operations for all of Southeastern MA including Cape Cod and the Islands. Kevin has been with Comcast NBCUniversal since 2003 and has attended five Comcast Career Days. I am a lifelong resident of Newton Massachusetts I am heavily involved in the community an enjoy spending time with family.


Courtney Johnson

Courtney Johnson is a first year City Year corps member serving on the Comcast NBCUniversal Team at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School.



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March 3, 2014

Microsoft Hosts Learning & Development Day in Seattle

Photo by Mike Kane, Microsoft

Learning & Development Day at Microsoft Headquarters was cool. How cool? Here are City Year Seattle’s Top 5 Moments.

By Renn Gutierrez, City Year Seattle corps member at Highland Park Elementary School

On January 31st, 2014, City Year Seattle/King County was honored to have our annual Learning & Development Day hosted by Microsoft at the Microsoft Headquarters Visitor Center in Seattle, Washington. The entire day was filled with excitement, inspiration, and some serious hands-on tech time. Check out the top moments from our memorable day.

1. The Career Panel with Microsoft Leaders

Photo by Mike Kane, Microsoft

City Year Seattle was able to listen to a panel of diverse and successful leaders from across all departments at Microsoft.  We heard from Kevin Wang, Jane Broom, Mike Egan, and Lori Harnick.  Their experience ranges from working as former software engineers to serving as the Director of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Microsoft.  It was fascinating to look inside some of the different departments that exist in such a large corporation like Microsoft.  The speakers emphasized the importance of needing a diverse set of skills to run a company like Microsoft. They focused their time discussing Microsoft’s goals of getting more inner city youth—like the students City Year corps members serve– involved with science, technology, engineering and math.

2.  YouthSpark!

Microsoft just launched a new program called YouthSpark! YouthSpark! provides technological resources for children and young adults all over the world.  We heard inspirational stories about a 14-year-old in Germany who used YouthSpark!’s resources and learned how to make mobile apps. We also heard of a young man in rural India who, through YouthSpark!’s resources, learned how to fix mobile phones, which made him a huge success in his village.

3.  Collaboration Time

Collaboration between corps members has become a mainstay of our weekly Learning & Development days, and this L&D day was no different. Microsoft provided us with ample amount of space and whiteboards, which allowed corps members who tutor students in a certain grade level to collaborate on lesson plans and best practices from all of the different schools where we serve.  It’s truly invaluable time for us to learn from one another, but doing it in an unfamiliar space motivated us to come up with new and exciting tactics.

4. Happy Hour of Code

Photo by Mike Kane, Microsoft Photo by Mike Kane, Microsoft

Kevin Wang, a former software engineer turned founder of the Technology Education And Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program, led us in an introductory crash course in computer programming. The TEALS program takes software engineers from Microsoft and sends them out to local and national high schools to teach introductory courses in Computer Science.  The program is a response to the need for computer programmers in an ever-growing business world which relies on computer programming to function. Our corps members dove right in, and under Mr. Wang’s incredible instruction, we were able to create a few circles and squares with a basic coding program, and we were provided with resources to introduce computer programming to our students!

5. Amazing Hospitality

We cannot express our thanks and gratitude enough to the folks over at Microsoft. The day that they planned for us was informative, inspiring and just plain fun. And it will definitely be a day we remember for quite some time. Thanks so much Microsoft!Photos by Mike Kane, Microsoft

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February 21, 2014

“I Have a Dream” Still Deeply Tied to Empathy

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Video provided by The HistoryMakers

By Andrea Taylor, Director of U.S. Community Affairs, Microsoft Corporation

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom has become an iconic event in American history. I was there as a student on August 28, 1963, to march along with more than 200,000 others seeking equality and justice. As life’s journey continues, I was fortunate to be a guest on Capitol Hill for last summer’s 50th anniversary Congressional Commemoration of this turning point in the Civil Rights Movement.

Congressman John Lewis was there too and spoke eloquently about the dream, the dreamer and the societal challenges and opportunities in the 21st century. As the only living person from among distinguished dais speakers on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that historic day, his words had great power then and now.

As another Black History Month is celebrated in our nation, it’s a time for personal reflection about these events. When asked “How do I feel about that day 50 years later?” by the producers of HistoryMakers, I reflected on what I remember from that day.

Of course, I was deeply moved by Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and it’s ironic that City Year’s mission and model is so closely aligned with his vision of opportunity for every child. That message still resonates more than five decades later and is also tied to City Year’s value of the month, empathy.

Empathy, is linked to leadership and effective interaction with different cultures and communities. In many ways any individual or group committed to making a difference in the lives of others must possess empathy. When present, this characteristic can be an important influence for leaders from every sphere including education, government, human rights and philanthropy, who seek to inspire and empower individuals and communities to be the best they can be.

This is what Microsoft’s YouthSpark partnership with City Year is all about as we seek to expand education, employment and entrepreneurship among today’s youth. What a privilege to be a steward of resources that serve this purpose.

Andrea Taylor - Photo Credit: The HistoryMakers

Andrea Taylor – Photo Credit: The HistoryMakers

Andrea Taylor is the director of U.S. Community Affairs at Microsoft Corporation. To learn more, read Andrea’s full HistoryMaker’s biography.

Color: Black
Food: Peanut butter
Quote: ”Get started.”
Season: Winter
Vacation Destination: Martha’s Vineyard
Boston, Massachusetts

Thanks to The HistoryMakers, the nation’s largest African American Video Oral History Collection, for permission to broadcast a segment of the January 13, 2014, interview with Andrea L. Taylor.

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February 13, 2014

Celebrating Black History Month: City Year Corps’ Living Witness to Diversity and Inclusion

headshotBy Bethany Dickerson Wynder, Director of National Diversity Recruitment and Strategic Partnerships, City Year, Inc. 

During Black History Month, City Year honors many “unsung heroes” – educators, tutors, mentors, and role models – who have worked and continue to work to help transform the lives of young students. City Year pays homage to the important role of education and educational achievement in the ongoing history of the African American community. City Year celebrates Black History Month as part of its ongoing work to promote race equity, address the educational achievement gap, and acknowledge the historic context and significant contribution and achievement of African Americans in the life of the nation.

Negro History Week, the precursor to Black History Month, was created in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an African American historian, author, and journalist. From the event’s initial phase in the early 1900s, primary emphasis was placed on encouraging the coordinated teaching of the history of American blacks in the nation’s public schools. Prominent African Americans who have committed to creating a legacy of educational excellence for all youth, especially African American youth, include the following individuals:

  • Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955), an American educator and civil rights leader best known for starting a school for African American students in Florida, that eventually became Bethune-Cookman University.
  • Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole (1936-), the first African American female president of Spelman College (1987-1997) and president of Bennett College from 2002 to 2007.
  • Mary Smith Peake (1823-1862), an American teacher and humanitarian, best known for starting a school for the children of former slaves starting in the fall of 1861, located at Emancipation Oak in Virginia.
  • The Jeanes Teachers, supervisors of black rural schools in the southern states from 1908 to 1933.

As we celebrate Black History Month, we also celebrate the collective power of a diverse group of young people. They work in the lowest performing schools to keep students in school and on track to graduate each year. We celebrate the fact that there is hope in the fight to reform our nation’s struggling schools. There is hope to end the dropout crisis. We celebrate the fact that City Year is continuing the tradition of promoting educational excellence in an effort to propel students and schools to achieve greater success and set America on the path to continued economic prosperity and security in the 21st Century.

What is City Year doing to promote educational excellence and race equity?

In 2011, the National Recruitment team developed a holistic, integrated, and multi-year corps member diversity plan. The plan is an initial step toward an integrated, holistic, and realistic approach to increase the number of City Year corps members of color. The process of developing, discussing, and implementing the plan provides an opportunity for aligning City Year’s mission, vision, and values with its commitment to enhancing and increasing the diversity of its corps members.

Diversity is an intrinsic part of City Year. Over the past three years, we developed national partnerships with approximately 15 organizations that often refer their members to and promote City Year to further increase the diversity of the corps member applicant pool. Of those 15 partner organizations, City Year has formalized working agreements with several including the Ron Brown Scholar Program. In 2011, City Year created a Diversity Recruitment Collaborative comprised of peer organizations including Teach For America, Peace Corps, and Breakthrough Collaborative to identify and share best and promising practices around ways that the respective organizations can work together to meet recruitment goals. Most recently, the recruitment team developed a corps diversity statement and an engagement strategy for service-minded Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Asian Pacific Islander American fraternities and sororities.

Continue the legacy…

Support City Year efforts to increase corps diversity by participating in recruitment and alumni affairs activities across the country. If you are a young person between 17-24 years old, consider embracing a life-changing experience and commit to a year of service which will transform you and the students you serve. Our next deadline is February 15, 2014.

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January 24, 2014

Martin Luther King Day 2014


At City Year, we celebrate Martin Luther King Day as a day to give back to the communities we serve in and to honor Dr. King’s legacy. This year, thousands of volunteers, students, City Year corps members, and many more came together all over the country to work on various service projects. Thank you to everyone who served with us and helped make this MLK Day with City Year another one to remember. Here are highlights from MLK Day 2014.

City Year, DC was featured on the front page of The Washington Post.


Photo courtesy of City Year, DC

Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined City Year Chicago and over 700 volunteers at Sullivan High School on MLK Day.

Photo credit: DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

Photo credit: DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

City Year New York was featured on 60 CBS local affiliates across the country for their MLK Day of Service and City Year’s work in classrooms.

U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan rolled up his sleeves and served with City Year, DC.


Photo courtesy of City Year DC


Photo courtesy of City Year DC

City Year sat down with Charlie Rose, Senior Vice President & Dean of City Year, to talk about what MLK Day means to City Year.

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To recap the excitement of the day, be sure to check out  #cyMLK on Twitter.

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January 20, 2014

Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2014 with City Year

City Year has a long-standing tradition of service. We sat down with Charlie Rose, Senior Vice President & Dean of City Year, to talk about what Martin Luther King Day means to City Year.

Follow City Year today on Twitter at #cyMLK.


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January 10, 2014

What we are reading and watching:

Every week we will give our readers a fun inside look into what we are reading and watching at City Year. Enjoy.

We had a good 2013, but now we need to look to the future.  We know that jobs are important, so how are young people getting them (because they are)? Does it start with four-year-olds? Or maybe different demographics should be taking advanced courses.  One thing we do know is that things need to change, and sometimes we need to look to the past for inspiration.  Many times a quality education can be part of the equation for solving issues, just don’t forget to celebrate ‘awesomeness’.

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January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!


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