City Year’s core values represent the organization's deepest beliefs and highest aspirations as we work towards our mission.
City Year was founded with a core belief: that uniting and empowering diverse teams of idealistic young people and charging them with addressing some of our country’s most difficult challenges can change the world for the better. The organizational values we collectively uphold are deeply rooted in this belief and in our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB). Our journey to fully live our values and our commitment to DEIB is ongoing, but with each step forward, we come closer to actualizing our mission and fulfilling our promises to one another.
Here are the values that guide our work:
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. It’s also a way to bring together diverse individuals who share a common goal while strengthening our country and our communities. At City Year we make a collective effort to demonstrate the power of service as a way to connect us to the fullness of what democracy and citizenship should be—teaching us the shared responsibility we have to each other and showing us what can be achieved through collaboration and determination.
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.
We are fiercely committed to dedicating our resources and energy in an effort to positively impact the lives of our students and their families, while supporting the success of our AmeriCorps members. We recognize that this goal can only be achieved by working together with others—teachers, administrators, parents, policymakers and partners—who share our commitment to creating environments that will help students build on their strengths and fully engage in their learning.
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 social justice in the United States, to youth-led movements around the world, the dedication of young people is driving major change. At City Year, we’re committed to tapping this power to help create more equitable access to education opportunities for students in systemically under-resourced schools. In the process, we’re striving to help foster a generation of empowered, experienced, effective and idealistic leaders. Because our experience has shown that young people surpass the highest of expectations to achieve extraordinary results.
4. Social justice for all
We dedicate ourselves to building a more just, equal, fair and compassionate world.
We recognize that unequal access to opportunity along lines of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, age and other aspects of identity has deep roots in our country—including in our education system and all the systems that we operate in—creating persistent and deep inequities. To work toward greater educational equity for all, we must deeply understand and enable the conditions to promote diversity, equity, inclusivity and belonging (DEIB) in our organization, and in the communities we serve.
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 they 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 across our organization.
We strive to learn from the perspective and experiences of others.
City Year believes that empathy is an essential skill for anyone committed to social change. Given the complexity of the issues we seek to address and the diversity of our staff, AmeriCorps members, students and communities, a strong capacity for empathy is essential. Empathy enables us to collaborate effectively, build trust and deepen understanding, which consequently strengthens our program’s design, implementation and results.
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, ensuring that people with different identities feel welcome, valued, empowered and engaged. Inclusivity informs our strategy of engaging young people in our service, listening to students about how to create learning environments, and our commitment to partner across the public, private and nonprofit sectors in order to drive systemic change.
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.
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 AmeriCorps members who are working together every day to support student success, to staff members at all levels 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 and engenders respect, empathy, understanding, communication, insight, patience, creativity and joy.
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 the smallest details influence the 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.