By Liz Warden, City Year Los Angeles AmeriCorps Alum, Class of 2011 - 2012

It was spring 2012. I was on the Los Angeles Metro on the way to a City Year-hosted field trip with Jessica, a sixth grade student from Markham Middle School in Watts. As we passed by boarded-up buildings covered with gang tags and homeless people outside, she turned to me and said, “Ms. Liz, ya know what? When I grow up, I wanna make Watts a better place.” 

To this day, that is still my fondest memory of my service at Markham (2011-2012). It helped me see the impact my team had made at Markham, and how City Year and our youth will play an integral role in shaping the future of Los Angeles.  

In education parlance, City Year provides specialized academic interventions for students who need an extra push. What inevitably takes place is City Year opens students’ eyes to a world of possibilities. Whether that’s thinking about college, or discovering academic strengths, City Year helps students understand the importance of education and how it can positively impact their lives. 

Many of our students lack support at home -- they come from single parent homes, foster homes or families who struggle with a language barrier. And thus, the students my team served looked up to us as role models -- some wanted to go to UCLA or USC because their corps member did, some ran to us to show off a good grade, and others confided in us with full trust. Many began to believe in themselves.  Others saw a life outside of violence through our daily academic programs.
Jessica's words spoke to me because we must rely on our youth for the future of Los Angeles. The more who excel, graduate, and possibly attend college will be a force of change. 

These students will deviate from the cycle of gangs that plague Los Angeles, fight against high unemployment, and later have the opportunity to help educate their own children. Perhaps, like Jessica, such students will strive to make their communities stronger than ever before. 

City Year can launch such change and move Los Angeles forward, simply by helping and motivating students like Jessica to achieve.

Inspired by Liz's story? Please take 2 minutes to support City Year Los Angeles. Vote for our entry in the LA2050 Challenge and help us win $100,000 to to expand our work in L.A. Go to cityyear.la/vote and click "Vote." Voting is free -- you just need an email address or Facebook account to register.

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