By Dr. John Deasy, Superintendent, Los Angeles Unified School District.
It’s a fact that schools are underfunded and it’s fact that there is no shortage of needs. But it’s also a fact that money, while sorely needed, represents only one kind of resource; our communities are rich in a different kind of resource, which comes in the form of people who are willing to contribute the time, positive energy, and skills to ensure that our students are successful.
There are many ways to contribute. One is to volunteer to help students learn to read – this can be as simple as reading aloud to groups, or participating in any number of programs focused on improving literacy. Another is to serve as a mentor to youth who may lack positive role models in their lives. Often, the simple existence of a consistent, caring adult who believes in the unlimited potential of a child can make the difference between that child dropping out and graduating high school. In many of our communities, it can be difficult to see a different path than the ones that feed into a never-ending cycle of poverty, violence, or both, and a mentor can help a child find a pathway to a different future. We cannot take for granted the immeasurable impact of this kind of investment in our children.
Amazingly, there is a group of young people who make a commitment to do all this, and more, for nearly a year of their lives. Driven by a love of service to their communities and the burning desire to make the world a better place, over 200 young adults will serve as tutors, mentors, and role models in 17 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District this year. Arriving each morning in their bright, yellow jackets with can-do attitude, they bring a positive culture that infects a campus in all the right ways. That intangible positive energy – something that is impossible to measure or to instill with training or by decree – is so vitally important to the success of our students.
Then there are the tangible benefits that a team of 16 energetic, idealistic, and competent young people can bring to any campus – personalized attention for students falling behind, role models and mentors on-demand, before and after school tutoring, and an extra pair of hands for teachers in their classrooms. These resources do produce tangible and measurable impacts, in the forms of improving grades and proficiency in reading and math, and ultimately, increasing the number of students who graduate.
City Year corps members not only serve as role models for our youth – they serve as role models for all of us. We all have the capacity to be a force for good in our communities and for our children. We can’t all dedicate a year of our lives to do that all at once, but when a community has people willing to invest even a small amount of time to support our students, that investment can have profound impacts beyond what many of us can imagine.
Congratulations to City Year on their 5th anniversary in Los Angeles, and my thanks to those who have come before, those who serve today, and those who will serve our children in the future.
This post was originally published on the City Year LA blog.