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Alumni Spotlight: Randy Frazier (‘08), Assistant Principal of Instruction at Simon Gratz High School Mastery Charter

Left: Randy in his current role as Assistant Principal of Instruction at Simon Gratz High School.
Right: Randy with a fellow AmeriCorps member during the 2007-08 service year.

 

At the beginning of the month, we celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week and thanked our teachers for their challenging and essential work in educating, mentoring, and nurturing young people. In recognition of our incredible teachers, we’re excited to spotlight Randy Frazier (City Year Philly alum ‘08), who decided to pursue a career in education after his year of service as an AmeriCorps member at Kensington High School.

As a native Philadelphian, Randy grew up attending Philadelphia public schools and graduated from Jules E. Mastbaum Area Vocational/Technical High School in 2006, a CYP partner school at the time. Randy decided to take some time after high school to figure out what he wanted to do before pursuing his next step. He spent a year working various jobs, and then applied to serve with City Year Philly during the 2007-08 school year, at 19 years old. Through the interview process, Randy felt a strong connection to CYP’s mission and values and decided to give the opportunity a chance—a decision that led to a lifelong career in education!

Read our Q&A with Randy to learn more about his experiences serving with City Year, his current role, his thoughts on education equity and creating a teacher pipeline, and more!

 

What did you enjoy the most about your time as a City Year Philly AmeriCorps member?

One of my favorite things about serving with City Year was building community with other Corps members. We had many different opportunities to build team and network as an entire Corps, and we all shared the same mindset and vision of where we wanted our city to go.

I also loved building relationships with students and families. I’m still in touch with some of the students I served when they were high schoolers. Many of them have gone on to do amazing things with their lives—some even have their own children now!—and I was able to be a part of their journeys.

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A year of service with City Year is a valuable starting point for a career in education. Locally, City Year Philly maintains partnerships with Urban Teachers, Teach for America, The School District of Philadelphia, Penn GSE, and others. Learn more about teacher pathways.

“As an educator now, City Year opened my eyes to see that there are many different pathways for students. A lot of times, there’s this belief that all students must go to college right after high school, or that college is the only pathway to success, but that’s not necessarily true. For some young people, maybe their first step out of high school is to do a year of service, like I did.”

How did your time serving as a Corps member inspire you to pursue a career in education? How did your service prepare you for your current role?

Up until City Year became a part of my life, I had no idea that I wanted to be an educator. I had always loved math in high school, but I never saw myself as a teacher. When I had the opportunity to start tutoring younger students and to step into the role of a teacher, I felt like I had found something I was passionate about and could see myself doing with my life.

My time with City Year also motivated me to go to college, which is one of the biggest things that got me to where I am today. I had always wanted to go to college someday, but I didn’t know when or what pathway I would take to get there. As a Corps member, I spent a lot of time working with seniors on SATs and college applications, and I realized that this was something I hadn’t done myself yet. I took the SATs that year alongside some of the students I was supporting. One of my students and I even ended up attending Penn State together that fall, which was a nice coincidence!

As an educator now, City Year opened my eyes to see that there are many different pathways for students. A lot of times, there’s this belief that all students must go to college right after high school, or that college is the only pathway to success, but that’s not necessarily true. For some young people, maybe their first step out of high school is to do a year of service, like I did. There are many ways that you can get to where you want to go.

 

What do you enjoy the most about your current role as Assistant Principal of Instruction at Gratz High School? What opportunities do you see?

What I enjoy most is student achievement. I enjoy seeing students grow, seeing school data improve, and seeing children enjoying learning—especially students who may not have always enjoyed school in the past. Coupled with that, I also enjoy teacher development. In order for our students to be successful, our teachers need to be successful. Part of my role is to develop and coach teachers on their work in the classroom, and through that, I’m able to see the success of students.

I think the biggest opportunity is finding the right people to be teachers. We’ve seen a lot of teachers leave the education field, especially during the pandemic. Moving forward, the biggest opportunity is trying to identify the people who want to be here, who want to serve our communities, and who want to fight for social justice.

Specifically, I’m working on creating a pipeline for increasing the number of Black and Brown men as teachers. About 60% of our students are male, but we probably only have about two teachers who are Black men, meaning that a lot of our students don’t have teachers who look like them. Being the only Black person in Instruction on my leadership team, that’s something I’m very passionate about and would like to see change within the education system.

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Research shows that Black students perform better when they have teachers who look like them. City Year Philly Executive Director Darryl Bundrige speaks about the impact of Black educators in his life and how AmeriCorps members can be part of the solution. Read more

What does education equity mean to you?

Education equity means that all students have the resources they need to be successful. And when I say resources, I don’t just mean technology and books—I also mean teachers. In our city’s systemically under-resourced schools, the teacher turnover rate is extremely high. To me, education equity means that our 9th grade students are able to have their teachers attend their graduation ceremony four years later.

“Sometimes people will refer to City Year as ‘taking a year off’ to serve. But in reality, we did not take a year off. We put a year on.”

What advice would you give to current Corps members and those who might be considering serving with City Year?

For current City Year Corps members, I would first just say thank you for your year of service. Sometimes people will refer to City Year as “taking a year off” to serve. But in reality, we did not take a year off—we put a year on.

The advice I would give is to take advantage of the opportunities you’re given and network with the people around you, because some of these people you’re going to know for the rest of your life. Use this time to identify who you are and what you want to do after City Year. The folks I served with in 2007-08 went on to do many different things, and some of us turned service into our career.

For those who are considering serving with City Year, the biggest thing I can say is just to do it. You will not regret the experience, and you will be very grateful for the choice you made to serve.

 

What are some of the best ways for CYP alumni to stay connected to and engaged with service?

I think City Year did a great job of showing that service means a range of impact. While we can easily recognize that cleaning up the streets or painting murals are service opportunities, there are so many other ways you can provide service to your community.

One of the best ways to get involved in service projects is just by talking to people around you. Look into different local organizations in your community and ask how you can support them. I’ve personally always kept in contact with local organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs, because they always have a lot going on.

 

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! Click below to start your journey.

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