Alumni Spotlight: David Guzman (‘14, ‘15), Program Manager, Community Resource Corps and CYP Board Member
Left: David Guzman, Program Manager, Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement & Volunteer Service, City of Philadelphia.
Right: David with his teammate, now fiancée, Claudia Toro.
City Year Philadelphia alum David Guzman (‘14, ‘15) could easily spend hours talking enthusiastically about his experience serving as an AmeriCorps member, first at Grover Washington Middle School and then for a second year at South Philadelphia High School. His experience serving with CYP not only inspired him to switch career paths, but it also drew him to relocating across the country from California to Philadelphia. David is currently in his second year serving as a City Year Philadelphia Board Member, bringing forward his passion and firsthand service experience to benefit future generations of CYP AmeriCorps members.
David came to City Year Philly after beginning a career as a financial analyst in California—a job, while lucrative, he found unfulfilling. He had always had an interest in education equity and, after seeing a few of his college friends posting about their City Year service experiences on Facebook, decided to apply to serve. David was drawn specifically to Philadelphia after seeing news articles about the city’s controversial decision to close 23 schools in early 2013. He explains, “I really wanted to understand education equity. I had never heard of schools closing down ever in any district, and I wanted to learn more information and assist in any way that I possibly could.”
Since serving with CYP, David has made a home here in Philly and has worked to establish two brand new programs with the City of Philadelphia. In his current role as Program Manager, he is launching a new Community Resource Corps AmeriCorps program, housed within the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service, which aims to connect Philadelphia residents with anti-poverty resources. (Fun fact: David’s manager, Amanda Gamble, is a fellow CYP alum!) Previously, David helped create Philly Reading Coaches to provide literacy support for students in grades K-3. During his three-and-a-half-year tenure, the program grew to recruit more than 1,000 volunteers—more than any other City initiative!
Read our Q&A with David to learn more about his experience serving with City Year, his career path in public service, his thoughts on being a CYP Board Member, and much more!
What did you enjoy the most about your time as a City Year Philly AmeriCorps member?
I could be here for a long time answering that question because there were so many things that I enjoyed! I’m originally from California, and City Year was instrumental in not only introducing me to Philadelphia, but also to the education system within the city. I was originally supposed to be here for one year and then go back to California, but here I am eight years later.
I also really enjoyed both the personal and professional connections that I made through City Year. I recently proposed to my girlfriend, who I met through City Year, and a lot of my close friends today are people whom I served with.
The CYP staff have also been really encouraging and supportive of my professional growth—Executive Director Darryl Bundrige, my former Impact Manager Amber Cox, and former staff member Virgil Sheppard, to name a few. Otis Hackney was the Principal of South Philadelphia High School when I was a Corps member there; he’s someone whom I still consider a close mentor, and we later went on to serve as City Year Philly Board Members together. He really introduced me to the fundamentals of school operations and how to build relationships and coalitions; I took a lot of what he taught me to the work I do now.
“City Year really solidified that I wanted to switch career paths from finance to public service. I wanted a career in working with diverse communities, supporting neighborhoods, and working toward a cause greater than myself.”
How did your time serving as a Corps member prepare you for your current role or shape your career path?
As a City Year Corps member, I wore a lot of different hats—tutor, mentor, community engagement specialist, event planner—as well as being a source of support for my partner teacher and teammates. When similar situations have happened in my professional career and I’ve had to take on something that might be outside of my job description, I feel perfectly equipped to tackle anything that gets thrown my way because of my experience as a Corps member; you must be ready for anything at any given time.
In terms of shaping my career path, City Year really solidified that I wanted to switch career paths from finance to public service. I wanted a career in working with diverse communities, supporting neighborhoods, and working toward a cause greater than myself. Every role that I’ve had since City Year has had some sort of community engagement or education equity component, and all of that is what I learned through my time as a Corps member.
How did you learn of the opportunity to serve as a City Year Philly Board Member? What excites you the most about serving on CYP’s Board?
I was recommended for the Board Member role by Kyle Casey, Senior Individual Giving Director at CYP. What originally excited me about joining the Board was that I get to see firsthand the decisions that are being made that impact the Corps and staff. I was drawn to the opportunity to hear these discussions and to be able to input my own ideas on the vision for City Year Philadelphia.
As a Board Member, I get to work with people who are passionate about education and Philadelphia communities. It’s inspiring to see how diverse the Board is, not only in racial/ethnic and gender makeup, but also career diversity—our Board members bring a lot of different perspectives and ideas to the table, and we all work together very well. It’s challenging work, but it’s extremely fun and fulfilling. At the end of the day, we know that our work will be implemented to improve the work that is being done at City Year Philadelphia.
David hanging out with his team at South Philadelphia High School.
What does education equity mean to you?
Education equity means that everyone has a fair shot, everyone has a level playing field, and everyone has the same tools to succeed in both school and life. To me, it’s unacceptable that many schools in Philadelphia are systemically under-resourced. It’s so important for our students to have resources like a nurse five days a week and their school libraries to be open. We know our schools need more funding, our teachers need higher wages, and our students should have the additional academic and emotional supports they need to succeed. We’re at least one step closer to reaching this last goal, with City Year Corps members working with and supporting students all day, every day.
“No matter what field you decide to go into after City Year, the experience will put you on a better path to succeed and will help you develop a better understanding of what’s going on in the world.”
What advice and words of encouragement would you give to current AmeriCorps members and those who might be considering serving here in Philly?
Service is worth it. This whole experience is 100% worth your time and investment, and it was a life-changing experience for me. The work is not going to be easy, but you’re going to learn a lot—about yourself, your students, your peers, and the communities you’re serving in. No matter what field you decide to go into after City Year, the experience will put you on a better path to succeed and will help you develop a better understanding of what’s going on in the world.
On a personal note, I’m an introvert and sometimes the City Year culture could be challenging in terms of being high energy, doing power greetings and PT [Physical Training]. If you don’t understand the big picture behind that at first, that’s okay. It’s one of those things that you’ll look back on and realize how much you helped inspire and motivate students to start their school day. City Year often talks about “service above self,” and that was one of those moments that really opened my eyes to the fact that it was not about me; it was about the students we were serving.
What are some of the best ways for CYP alumni to stay connected to and engaged with service?
We’re currently in the process of redeveloping our alumni communication strategy, so the best way to stay connected right now is through social media. We have a Facebook group and an Instagram page for City Year Philly alumni, and there are a lot of events and announcements that get posted there. We also frequently collaborate with the Associate Board and promote their events. Service projects are another opportunity to stay involved, particularly MLK Day of Service.
Outside of City Year, the City of Philadelphia also has an AmeriCorps alumni group. It’s a consortium of AmeriCorps programs in Philadelphia—including City Year as well as the different programs that are run out of the Mayor’s Office of Philadelphia—and they come together to share ideas on how to stay engaged with service. That group is a terrific way to make connections and participate in a lot of professional development opportunities.
Are you considering a year of service, or do you know someone who is? City Year Philly is currently accepting applications for the 2022-23 service year! To learn more and start your application, visit cityyear.org/apply-now.
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