As I sat on the plane en route to Boston, drifting in and out of consciousness, my few scattered thoughts revolved around expectations.This was my second City Year Academy, the first one as a staff member and the first one with prior knowledge of what Academy is supposed to look like.
City Year Summer Academy, sponsored by Comcast, is an intensive training conference for all City Year staff and senior corps members. Nearly 800 City Year staff and senior corps members come together in one city to prepare for the upcoming year. Last year, I had no idea what to expect. And while I had heard all about Academy from veteran staff members, but it’s another thing entirely to actually experience it for yourself.
The 2009 Academy focused on City Year’s school service model. We learned all about the ABC’s (focusing on students’ attendance, behavior, and course performance in English and math), and how these were the primary indicators of a student’s likelihood of graduating from high school. Every year in America, over 1 million students drop out of high school. This translates to roughly one student every 26 seconds. This is simply unacceptable. We refined our mission: to end the dropout crisis in America.
I had this in mind as I checked into my room at Northeastern University. There was lots of talk circulating around the brand new literacy training program that had been developed with the support of the Walmart Foundation, but no one really knew what to expect. The only thing we did know was that it added on four extra days for school-based senior corps and staff.
The first four days of Academy focused around leadership. Sessions focused on such topics as the corps member experience, people management, and situational leadership, all of which prepared the attendees for the rigors of leading a team of corps members. The days were long, usually lasting 12-to-15 hours. By the fifth day, I was mentally exhausted.
As tired as I was at the start of our literacy training, I was still very curious about this new part of Academy. My first session, on building a culture of literacy, focused on encouraging students to read through our work in the schools. Within 30 minutes, I was completely energized and had an entire list of possible initiatives that my team could implement back home at Stevenson Middle School this year.
The rest of the literacy training followed suit and the days following maintained the momentum. As Academy came to a close, I was really excited to get back to Los Angeles. Not only to get back to my life, but also to put all of the trainings to work. Academy gave everyone a great foundation of skills at the national level and it allows us to come back to our respective cities and build on everything that we learned, tailoring our approach to our communities’ needs.
Now, as over 1,700 corps members begin training all around the country, including the 200 start here in Los Angeles, I am excited to pass on the knowledge and begin our next year of service.
Arthur Shtern is a program manager for City Year in Los Angeles.