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City Year’s core values represent the deepest beliefs and highest aspirations of our organization and our mission. Every day we strive to ensure that these values reflect our culture of idealism, inspire our actions, and inform all of our decisions. They serve as our guide, and they constantly empower us to stay true to ourselves through changing times as we work to achieve our mission of keeping more students in school and on track to graduation. Here are some of the values that we work into our everyday lives. 

City Year Value: Service To A Cause Greater Than Self

1. Service to a Cause Greater Than Self

We dedicate ourselves to addressing shared civic challenges through unified action.

City Year believes that service is a personal decision to dedicate one’s time, energy, and effort to a cause greater than oneself and to change the lives of others. It’s also a way to bring together diverse individuals who share a common goal while empowering them to work together. It’s through the power of service that we, as a nation, have been able to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles and ultimately build a better future for all of us. That’s why at City Year we make a collective effort to always demonstrate the power of service as a way to make a transformational change for everyone—from the students we serve, to the communities we’re in, to our nation as a whole.

City Year Value: Students First, Collaboration Always

2. Students First, Collaboration Always

The success of the young people we serve is our preeminent goal, best achieved by working in partnership with others who are dedicated to the same cause.

The students we serve are our highest priority, and supporting their success is our number one goal. For this reason, we’re fiercely committed to dedicating our resources and energy in a strategic effort to maximize our impact in the lives of our students and their families. At the same time, we recognize that this goal can only be achieved by working together with others—teachers, administrators, parents, policymakers, and partners—who all share our commitment to ensuring that every student has the opportunity to receive quality education and build academic and life skills that can help better their future. Inspired by the African proverb that “It takes a whole village to raise a child,” we are committed to putting students first while always operating with spirit of collaboration and partnership.

City Year: Belief in the Power of Young People

3. Belief in the Power of Young People

We are committed to harnessing one of the most powerful forces for positive change at work in the world today.

The energy and idealism of young people are two of the most powerful and transformative forces at work in the world today. From advancing civil rights in the United States, to helping end segregation in South Africa, to promoting democracy in the Middle East, the dedication of young people in our world is moving mountains. At City Year, we’re committed to tapping this power and using it to help spur change in the lives of the students and communities we serve. In the process, we’re striving to help foster a generation of empowered, experienced, effective, and idealistic leaders. Because our experience has shown that when you give young people big goals, they inevitably surpass the highest of expectations to achieve extraordinary results.

City Year Value: Social Justice For All

4. Social Justice For All

We dedicate ourselves to building a more just, equal, fair, and compassionate world.

Over the course of history, every generation has struggled to ensure that the blessings of liberty, freedom, equality, and justice have been accessible to every human. And throughout time, seemingly powerless individuals have become democratic citizens with inalienable rights; slaves have become free men and women; voiceless women have become empowered individuals and civic leaders; and once oppressed minorities have been able to move forward and stand with dignity and equality. Every generation has reached new milestones, and City Year is dedicated to helping more and more young people reach theirs by promoting educational equality for all.

Watch this TEDx talk on Social Justice Leadership by Max Klau, Vice President of Leadership Development

City Year Value: Level Five Leadership

5. Level Five Leadership

We aspire to develop a culture of Level Five leadership across the organization, fostering a blend of great humility with intense professional will.

The concept of “Level Five Leadership” is borrowed from the book Good to Great, written by Jim Collins. The term describes a style of leadership that blends a paradoxical mix of qualities. First, Level Five leaders practice great humility: they are modest, they learn from and listen to others, they give credit to others for success, and take personal responsibility when things don’t go as planned. At the same time, they work with intense professional will: they take bold action, set ambitious goals, make courageous decisions, and persevere through the long, challenging process of achieving great things.Humility, will, boldness, courage, and perseverance: these are the qualities of Level Five Leadership and City Year is committed to operating in this way within all levels of our organization.

City Year Value: Empathy

6. Empathy

We strive to constantly walk in the moccasins of others.

City Year believes that empathy is an essential skill for anyone committed to social change. We’re inspired by the Cherokee prayer that states, “Great Spirit, grant that I may never criticize my brother or my sister until I have walked the trail of life in their moccasins.” Given the complexity of the problems we seek to change, the diversity of the communities we serve, and the inclusivity of our corps members and staff, a strong capacity for empathy is essential, because it empowers us to collaborate effectively and maximize our impact. Empathy builds trust and deepens understanding, which consequently strengthens our program’s design, implementation, and results.

City Year Value: Inclusivity

7. Inclusivity

We embrace differences as strengths that magnify our capacity to achieve shared goals.

Inclusivity involves more than the celebration of diversity. It means actively embracing differences as vital assets that enrich our community, spur transformation, and strengthen the ability to make a positive impact. To be inclusive at City Year is to create the strongest force for good from the most diverse membership possible. Inclusivity informs our strategy of engaging young people in our service, as well as our commitment to engage partners from across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors in an effort to address pressing public problems. Every day, we inspire to create a unique culture that makes all feel welcome, valued, empowered and engaged.

City Year Value: Ubuntu

8. Ubuntu

I am a person through other people; my humanity is tied to yours.

Ubuntu—a term borrowed from the Zulu tribe of South Africa—means “I am a person through other people; my humanity is tied to yours.” This concept expresses a spiritual truth about the world: we’re all connected to each other through invisible webs of interdependence. We share a common world and destiny, and the struggles of a few can affect the many. Because of this connection, we’re able to deepen our own humanity when we’re able to recognize and honor the humanity of those around us. This belief informs our commitment to treating everyone we interact with deep respect. It’s simply a way of being and a quality of presence that we aspire to bring into all of our relationships.

City Year Value: Teamwork

9. Teamwork

We strive to work powerfully together in a unified effort to achieve our goals.

At City Year, we believe deeply in the power of teams. When a group of diverse individuals unite, collaborate, and dream together in pursuit of a shared goal, the team becomes more powerful than the sum of its parts. In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” That’s why City Year has made teamwork essential to every single thing we do. From corps members who are working together every day to support student success, to senior leaders who work collaboratively to advance our organizational goals and mission, everyone at City Year operates as part of a team. And as a result, our teamwork continually helps us maximize our impact, engenders respect, empathy, understanding, communication, insight, patience, creativity, and joy.

City Year Value: Excellence

10. Excellence

We hold ourselves to the highest standards as we strive to execute our mission and steward our resources.

City Year recognizes that our goals for change can only be achieved through disciplined, rigorous, and tireless attention to detail. Excellence is both an inspiring vision and a daily practice. It informs the goals that we set for ourselves, as well as the dedication we put forward to achieve those goals. We know that even the smallest details influence our grandest of outcomes, which is why we aspire to achieve excellence not only in the execution of our mission but also in the way we manage our resources.