be_ixf;ym_202109 d_25; ct_50 Learn more about City Year’s response to COVID-19

What schools want and need this year

After a very challenging and disruptive time, everyone connected to schools—including students, educators, parents and school partners—is taking a deep breath as we all gear up for yet another unpredictable school year. The threat of COVID-19 persists, prolonging stress and raising difficult questions about how we can best support learning while also protecting everyone’s health.

Yet, the depth of commitment, determination and creativity of the caring adults who show up for their students every day remain steadfast. And as this school year begins, we can use two sources of information—feedback from teachers and principals, and insights and lessons learned from the past year—to help us better understand and provide what students and teachers really want and need right now.

Here’s what we have learned since March 2020.

City Year AmeriCorps student success coach with student

Teachers want additional capacity.

Our 320 partner public schools say they have benefitted from the additional human capacity and relationships City Year AmeriCorps members provide as student success coaches.

Since the pandemic hit, AmeriCorps members have adapted their services to virtual platforms and helped meet local needs, serving as tutors, mentors and role models during a disruptive time for everyone in education. Teachers[1] have been vocal in their appreciation for the additional support in their classrooms.

“This was my first experience with City Year and it was great! My City Year was amazing, she supported my class in every way from engagement to their social/emotional wellbeing.”  –City Year partner teacher, 2021 end-of-year survey

From delivering laptop computers to homes in the early days of COVID-19 to helping students, teachers and parents adjust to distance learning, navigate new technology, participate in online chats and complete and submit assignments, City Year AmeriCorps members showed up, every day, willing and able to help.

City Year was able to adapt its in-person training to a virtual format, keeping the focus of service on three main objectives:

  • Building consistent, caring and positive relationships with students every day
  • Partnering with teachers to ensure students are engaged with their learning
  • Contributing to a sense of joy, stability and belonging in the school experience

We believe that more schools, especially systemically under-resourced schools that serve large numbers of students of color and students growing up in lower-income households, such as the schools served by City Year, could benefit from an infusion of student success coaches, even if those schools aren’t partnering with City Year.

My City Year member was fantastic this year. She supported me with daily lessons and had a great rapport with the students.”

–City Year partner teacher, 2021 end-of-year survey

Principals want both academic and social-emotional supports.

Schools know exactly what they want and need more of to successfully serve students this year. In an end-of-year survey we sent to our partner principals[1], these are the top six areas where they wanted additional support:

Survey results from principals on City Year efficacy

Students want a bigger say in their education.

At a time when it’s difficult to get information about how students are really doing because of pandemic-related disruptions, results from a student survey piloted at a City Year site on the West Coast in 2021 gave us some insight.

The survey showed that the majority of respondents expressed feelings of agency in their interactions with AmeriCorps members, and a majority of students also feel supported by AmeriCorps members as they navigate academic challenges this year.

  • 84% of students feel that their City Year AmeriCorps member teaches them how to self-advocate and ask for help when they need it—critical skills for life and workforce success
  • 79% of students feel that their City Year really listens to them often or almost always
  • 77% of students say that their City Year considers their ideas when making decisions
  • 76% of percent of students feel that their City Year explains things in a different way if they don’t understand it the first time, personalizing the learning experience

These results offer us an opportunity to continue to elevate student voice and support them as they reconnect with their school community, recover from the stress and disruption they have experienced, and re-engage with their learning.

hearthshake orange overlay City Year

Explore what we learned about students and adults from two case studies during the pandemic.

The well-being and mental health of students—and adults who work in schools—need extra attention right now.

The past year and a half have taken a toll on everyone. Students, teachers and other adults who work in schools, including City Year AmeriCorps members, are no exception. More and more, people are recognizing that taking care of our whole selves, including our mental health, is crucial if we are going to be able to show up for others, and that includes actively supporting the mental health of all members of the school community.

red jacket icon

Read an essay by City Year Chief Transformation Officer Stephanie Wu and Gil Noam Ed.D. founder and director of PEAR: Partnerships in Education and Resilience, about the psychological challenges facing teachers and students and what we can do to help support them.

City Year and our partners are leaning into what science and research, our own experience working in schools, and feedback has taught us and bringing these priorities and practices into our schools:

  • Relationships are at the heart of learning and building community. In fact, as the report A Nation At Hope describes, learning happens in relationship with others. That’s why the partnership between a classroom teacher and an AmeriCorps member is so vital, and why the relationships corps members form with students is the bedrock of our holistic approach in schools.
  • Integrating academic and social-emotional learning not only advances achievement—it enhances holistic well-being and student mental health. When a student feels safe and cared for and has a sense of belonging and purpose, they are able to learn and grow.
  • Nurturing and joyful school environments benefit everyone—adults and kids. The more we can all find ways to help schools create and sustain engaging and equitable learning environments, the better students will do academically and in terms of their mental health and social-emotional development. And you can bet the adults will thrive, too.

Learn more about City Year’s unique approach to student success

Learn more


Kellie Hinkle City Year headshot
Kellie Hinkle: City Year Senior Vice President of District Engagement

Related stories

City Year is on a learning journey to approach our research with an equity lens. Here’s what we have learned...

Read more about Learnings about how approaches to research advance educational equity

We’re pleased to share our annual report, a look back at our work in 2019-2020—a year of challenge, learning and...

Read more about Reflecting on a remarkable year with City Year's Annual Report

Wherever you are in the application process, we want to help you feel prepared for service with City Year AmeriCorps....

Read more about Top things you should know about City Year before you apply

Mid-year AmeriCorps members add capacity to existing City Year teams and support even more students in reaching their full potential....

Read more about What you can expect as a mid-year AmeriCorps member
National Strategic Partners
  • AbbVie logo
  • AT&T logo
  • Comcast NBC/ Universal logo
  • CSX logo
  • Deloitte logo
  • New York Life Foundation logo
  • Red Nose Day logo
National Partners
  • Aramark logo
  • Bain Capital logo
  • Bank of America logo
  • Celanese logo
  • NFL Inspire Change logo
  • Santander logo
  • Taco Bell Foundation logo block for footer