As City Year kicks off its 25th anniversary year, we have a lot to celebrate. Our largest corps ever – 2,700 AmeriCorps members – are serving in high-need urban schools in 25 cities across the US. We hosted Red Jacket Weekend in Boston which reunited more than one-thousand alumni, partners, families and friends of City Year; and have hosted two dozen Opening Day celebrations that have inspired communities from coast to coast.
At a City Year Opening Day ceremony, corps members take the AmeriCorps pledge to serve, dedicating a year of their lives to making a difference for children and their communities. Opening Day ceremonies are the literal and symbolic beginning to a new year of helping students and schools succeed.
This year we are also celebrating City Year Jacksonville, City Year’s 24th site, which held its Opening Day ceremony today kicking off its inaugural year of service.
Fifty-eight City Year corps members were sworn in this morning at the CSX Corporation Lobby in Jacksonville, FL. They’ll serve as tutors, mentors and role models in six Duval County public schools this year. Last year in Jacksonville, the graduation rate was 67.7 percent, about 10 points below the national average. Every year, nearly 1 million students drop out of school.
“We are proud to have City Year Jacksonville help our students and schools succeed, and we look forward to seeing the results that will come from these young leaders,” said Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown. “As Mayor of Jacksonville, my goal is to have a 100 percent high school graduation rate and to see 50 percent of our population with college degrees. I believe City Year can help us get there.”
Michael and Kim Ward were the driving force behind City Year Jacksonville’s founding, and are among City Year’s most generous supporters. Michael Ward, who sits on City Year’s National Board of Trustees, is the CEO Chairman, President and CEO of CSX Transportation, a City Year National Leadership sponsor, and Kim Ward, Managing Director of The Michael and Kim Ward Foundation, worked hard to bring City Year to their community.
“What inspires me most about City Year is the corps members. I look and see them putting greater causes over themselves, believing in all the children, believing in themselves, and giving so much time and energy and service,” said Kim Ward, City Year Jacksonville Board Chair. “They are showing students that they have all the tools within them to be successful, they just needed someone to believe in them.”
By the 2015-16 academic year, City Year Jacksonville aims to work in 10 Duval County public schools and deploy 100 City Year corps members, all focusing their efforts on reducing the high school dropout rate.
Comcast and NBCUniversal sponsor Opening Day ceremonies at all 25 City Year sites, including City Year Jacksonville.
Photos by Elliot Haney