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It’s back to school time for our students – an exciting time for them to prepare for their year of growth and learning. Across our 28 City Year locations, just like our students, our 3,000+ AmeriCorps members are preparing for the school year – diving into an intensive learning and development program called Basic Training Academy (BTA).

We heard from some of City Year Tulsa’s corps about their expectations for BTA:

“I imagined it was going to be a lot of PowerPoint and presentations. I figured it would be just weeks of information to prepare us for observations,” said City Year Tulsa AmeriCorps member Andrea Nieves, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University.

“I didn't exactly have an expectation. I was just excited to finally meet everyone and to start with City Year,” said City Year Tulsa AmeriCorps member Elizabeth McElroy, a graduate of Oklahoma State University.

The main goal of BTA is to ensure that all AmeriCorps members are fully prepared to positively engage with students, teachers and school administrators at the start of the school year. BTA begins with orientation, not just to City Year, but to the work of becoming mentors, leaders, tutors and role models in the schools where they will serve. A key area of focus for Basic Training Academy is to orient the AmeriCorps members to City Year’s core values and service model. Throughout BTA, AmeriCorps members will explore City Year culture, build academic intervention strategies, learn about the importance of social emotional development and begin to investigate the leadership development model at City Year.

The goal is for AmeriCorps members to leave feeling ready to launch into their service year, as BTA is a rite of passage in their servant-leadership development. By successfully completing the sessions and building a foundation of knowledge regarding City Year’s culture and service, AmeriCorps members will leave BTA ready to join the broader City Year community of practicing idealists and prepared to effectively transition into school-based service.

“Though we covered the subjects I expected, I was impressed how detailed the information sessions were. All the sessions thoroughly covered each topic and the presenters were prepared to answer our questions and provide additional information. What did surprise me was how they planned sessions with activities that facilitated all different styles of learning. It allowed for variety and change of pace in our sessions, which broke up the monotony that long information sessions can easily fall into. I also appreciated that certain activities were designed to push us to be introspective and reflective,” said City Year Tulsa AmeriCorps member Nataly Cruz, a graduate of Florida International University.

“The corps is amazing and …very engaged. They asked very thoughtful questions and had some really insightful experiences that added to the sessions,” said Selina Rios, Program Manager, City Year Tulsa.

Another important goal of BTA is for AmeriCorps members to build foundational structures partnered with tangible skills so that they can continue to capture knowledge throughout their service as well as understand the theoretical approach that City Year takes to its service. City Year is invested in the leadership development of the corps, both inside and outside of the classroom. BTA provides the first basic context for leadership development at City Year and introduces the corps to the various programs, structures and opportunities available to them throughout the coming year.

“I'm learning to constantly ask questions. I want to make sure I am building the right containers for people to learn and build their own thoughts, opinions and experiences. I am learning that I really love building fun and engaging sessions for the corps,” said Rios.

Learning and Development Director of City Year Boston, Rachael Alexander spends the four months prior to the start of the corps year helping to create the content the corps will learn during BTA. Alexander described the breakdown of BTA to be first setting up Mindsets for each corps member, then diving into the framework or the content that they will learn, and continuing with the application of skills through service. She said, “80% of knowledge comes from practice and making connections.”

And it seems like the work she, along with staff at each of our 28 sites, is paying off.

“I feel like I have most of the basic skills needed to start the year successfully. However I know that there is still a lot left for me to learn, and I am excited to continue developing my skills to ensure that I, along with my team, have a successful year,” said Nieves. 


Charlie Rose Senior Vice President and Dean of City Year speaks during City Year Boston’s BTA. 


Update: This post was edited on November 16, 2017 to reflect the current number of sites and City Year AmeriCorps members we have at this time.

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