Written by CYD’s Own Jenna Mortiz
Poverty, homelessness, hunger, the environment, crime — all these seemed like equally important challenges to commit to, and I was unsure of which was the most critical in making our world a better place… I’ve come to the realization that our failing education system is in fact the root of almost all the other issues that I cared most deeply about; and that City Year allowed me to have the greatest and most direct impact on the lives of those young people who are the victims of our deeply flawed system; and who, with our help, will become a powerful part of the solution.
-Joel Gullickson, City Year Detroit corps member Team Leader, Ford Motor Company Team at Detroit Collegiate Prep High School
Every 26 seconds, someone drops out of school in America. Detroit is being called the epicenter of the urban public education crisis — Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called us “Ground Zero” for education reform. In Detroit, the dropout rates hover around 50%, and rates for African American and Hispanic males are even worse. According to recent data, almost 40% of Hispanic and African-American students fail to graduate with their class.
Based on leading research from Johns Hopkins University, we can now predict with alarming accuracy the likelihood of a student in a high-poverty school graduating from high school. By as early as the sixth grade, if a student falls off-track in either Attendance, Behavior or Course performance in math or English (the ABCs), without intervention, that child stands only a 20% chance of graduating high school. Students are failing and dropping out at alarming rates — not because they want to, but because they are not getting the supports they need to keep them on track to graduation. Some supports are coming from the top. A state-wide school district, the Educational Achievement Authority, aims to radically restructure education in the state’s lowest 5% performing schools. But the EAA is still months away from taking action. City Year Detroit has boots on the ground in classrooms right now.
At City Year Detroit, young adult leaders like Joel Gullickson are helping turn around the very real dropout crisis in Detroit. City Year’s unique approach embeds a team of corps members (up to ten young adult leaders) at high-poverty K-12 schools full-time for the entire school year, where they provide targeted tutoring, mentoring, behavior coaching, attendance incentives, and other interventions to bring the achievement of struggling students back on track. From before the first morning bell until the end of afterschool programs, corps members serve as near-peer role models and provide the extra human capital so desperately needed in high-poverty schools. This year, City Year Detroit is partnering with nine public schools in Detroit, River Rouge, Harper Woods, and Taylor, and is bringing a laser-focused dedication to moving students who have fallen off track back onto the path towards high school graduation.
Like Joel, City Year recognizes that solving the education crisis will help solve many of the other issues impacting our society. City Year’s efforts are keeping student in school and on track to graduate ready for success in college or career — which is critical to building a local pipeline of a highly educated workforce. City Year leverages the talent, energy, idealism and service of young adults (ages 17-24) who choose to serve as AmeriCorps members for a year; our focus is to help solve the dropout crisis, and it is through service that City Year demonstrates the power of these young adults to tackle critical issues in our community and their commitment to developing the next generation of educated, successful young leaders of Detroit.