By Lola Esmieu, City Year Los Angeles '11 & '12, University of Pennsylvania '13

During my City Year experience, I was much more focused on what I was giving to my students and the organization, and I never stopped to appreciate everything that I was taking away from the experience until afterward. Now, four years later, I can say that I gained so much from my City Year experience. City Year provided me with opportunities that have changed the trajectory of my personal and professional life.

Since day one (seriously, during the first day of my orientation), City Year staff asked me about my Life After City Year (LACY) plan. This frustrated me at the time because I had no idea what I wanted to do. City Year staff were adamant about exposing us to opportunities that would get us thinking about our next steps. Had LACY opportunities not been placed in front of me, I am not sure what I would have done post-City Year.

I listened and attended an evening event at the City Year Los Angeles office where they hosted the admissions director from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Initially, I was just there for the free pizza, but I stayed to hear about the opportunities offered through City Year's partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. City Year is a proud partner of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, one of the nation's premier schools of education. Every year, two City Year alumni are eligible to receive a $13,500 scholarship toward any full-time Master's degree program. City Year alumni who apply will also be considered for additional merit-based awards depending on the strength of their application. The University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education offers a one-year deferral option for students admitted to a graduate program who decide to serve with City Year before starting their Master's program. 

City Year alumna Lola at the University of Pennsylvania

Prior to attending the event, I had never thought of leaving California, let alone pursing any advanced degrees, but after learning about the partnership, I figured I’d throw my hat into the ring. When decision time rolled around, I was accepted to the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education to pursue a Master of Science in Higher Education. Because of the partnership, I received a $13,500 scholarship and was able to apply the two Segal AmeriCorps education awards I earned after completing two years of service to help pay for my schooling.

Attending UPenn was an opportunity that happened only because of my time serving with City Year. The decision to apply to UPenn truly changed my life, personally and professionally, and I have City Year to thank for opening that door for me. In my current role as Associate Director for Programs at the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions, I cannot stress enough how useful the tools and skills I gained during my time with City Year have been. When I am planning national and international conferences, small-scale programs, and other events in my full-time professional role (while simultaneously pursuing a Master in Law and an Education Doctorate at UPenn) I have the ability to balance everything because of the time-management and relationship building skills I learned at City Year. 

Whenever I get the chance, I try to tell all young people to think about doing City Year because they will be much more prepared for the “real world."

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