In the fall of 2018, we launched City Year Buffalo, our 29th site in the U.S.! Located on the shores of Lake Erie, Buffalo is third-largest city in the state of New York and has the largest school district in region, serving 31,398 students. We are proud to partner with Buffalo schools and community leaders to support student success and improve high school graduation rates.
In many ways the City Year partnership with Buffalo is a perfect match. “Buffalo is a city that needs City Year and City Year needs Buffalo,” City Year supporter and Buffalo native, Brooke Muggia says. “The youth of Buffalo are unstoppable, as are City Year AmeriCorps members.”
Give Back To Your Community
One of those unstoppable AmeriCorps members is Buffalo native Tommy Wagstaff, who is serving at Enterprise Charter School, which serves students in grades K-8. When he applied to City Year Buffalo, Tommy was earning his associate’s degree while working for a retail company in a local mall. He knew that he wanted a job that was more personally fulfilling and giving back to his hometown was important to him.
“I grew up here. I know how easy it is for kids to get lost in the wrong things and I know that having an education can help fight that,” Tommy says. For him, the best thing about his service is knowing that he’s there for the benefit of kids who are a lot like Tommy was at their age. He often uses his love of anime TV shows to connect with students.
“The students like anime. I remember being that age and watching the same shows so I use that to relate to them,” Tommy says. “Once that ice is broken, you’re able to talk and get to know them better.”
All students are deserving of caring mentors and the presence of caring adults in their lives. Something as simple as taking the time to talk about a student’s favorite television show, can be the start of a life-changing mentoring relationship.
Like many urban centers in upstate New York, Buffalo has seen a decline in population and slow economic growth over the past several decades but the community is resilient and dedicated to continuously improving. Buffalo is affordable, full of fun outdoor and cultural activities and has become particularly attractive to young professionals. Michael Stevens, City Year Buffalo Executive Director, grew up in a neighboring city and knows all about Buffalo’s attractions and legacy of service. He speaks poignantly and passionately about the potential of both students and the community.
“I always ask what it means to be a servant leader and how we can show up and be our best selves for students,” Michael says. “At the end of the day, I hope that City Year can truly learn from Buffalo by taking lessons from its great community leaders and using them every day.”
In total, nine AmeriCorps members have taken on the challenge of being servant leaders during City Year Buffalo’s first year. Becky Hotung is another AmeriCorps member serving at Enterprise Charter School. Born and raised in Buffalo, Becky spent her first year of service with City Year Philadelphia. Her service gave the opportunity to learn more about education and a new community. Becky knew that she wanted to serve a second year with City Year when she received an email announcing the opening of City Year Buffalo.
“I didn’t want to walk away from Philly. Continuing to work in that community was really important to me,” she says. “It was tough but I ultimately I decided to go back to my hometown and be part of the group that would bring City Year to Buffalo.”
Becky says she is happy with her decision. “Having the chance to serve in your own hometown is really incredible,” she says. “I have more connections here and it’s easier to engage with the community. It’s nice being able to know people that you can bring in or can connect with.”
You don’t have to be from Buffalo or western New York to understand why it would be an amazing place to serve. It’s a welcoming city that embraces everyone and even though the winters may be cold, you can always count on the kindness of Buffalonians to help shovel your drive way or dig your car out the snow. It’s a place where people show up for their neighbors and for their community.
Anyone interested in serving with City Year Buffalo must mirror the qualities of the city – compassionate, hardworking and resilient. When asked what makes the site so unique, Michael says, “If you’re looking for an adventure, purpose and challenge, coming to Buffalo is exactly what you’ll get.”
So as we welcome our 29th site to the network, we invite you to learn more about Buffalo and to get excited about working in a city that reflects so many of City Year’s values.