A letter from our Executive Director: Transitioning to virtual service
City Year was founded on a core belief: that uniting diverse teams of idealistic young people and charging them with addressing our country’s most difficult challenges can change the world for the better. Today, we are facing one of the greatest challenges of our time and City Year stands ready to tackle it, head on.
During these unprecedented school closures, City Year Seattle has been working hand in hand with our school partners to support schools’ transition to virtual learning platforms. The State of Washington mandated that all schools across the state begin providing some form of virtual learning for their students by March 30. Seattle Public Schools is scrambling to meet this mandate. The district does not have an existing virtual learning platform and is working hard to build a useable set of tools that are both accessible and equitable for our students. We anticipate that within the next two weeks, most Seattle Public Schools will provide some form of virtual learning and that City Year AmeriCorps Members will be pivotal to supporting their education there.
In the meantime, we have transitioned our 86 dedicated AmeriCorps Members to virtual service to support Seattle students during this time of crisis. Together, our corps and staff began working remotely on March 13, with our staff leading the City Year network in thinking through what virtual service looks like. We are currently in week 3 of supporting our ACMs virtually through a series of online learning and development sessions led by our staff to keep their skills sharp, stay connected, ensure access to self-care resources, and provide professional development resources as our AmeriCorps members prepare for life after City Year.
Schools closure will, no doubt, disproportionately impact many of the students we serve in south Seattle. City Year will have a unique role in the coming months (and years) in helping our students “catch up” from this lost time of learning (see recent Washington Post article on closures and education equity). We also know that national service becomes a more enticing opportunity during times of higher unemployment. These two factors heighten the impact City Year will have in the future and increases the importance of ensuring we have the important resources to do this work —now and for years to come.
City Year Seattle / King County is a $5M organization. The vast majority of these funds support our 86-member AmeriCorps team and the dedicated program staff who enable their work with Seattle students. School closures and social distancing guidelines have also directly impacted several of our sources of revenue. Primarily, we have postponed our Ripples of Hope Gala on May 14 to Oct 7. This annual fundraising event generates nearly $500,000 per year from loyal and generous City Year champions and corporate sponsors which directly supports the students and communities we serve.
Therefore, in its place, we are transforming the event into a three-week Ripples of Hope Campaign, designed to inspire our supporters to continue to give critical financial resources through a multi-week virtual campaign. There could not be a more important time to support City Year than now. We hope that the power of our mission and the clear impact we will have when schools re-open will ensure these resources are in place during this critical time.
Our AmeriCorps Members are eager to re-unite with our students virtually in the coming weeks and we will continue to work hard, and fight, for what we believe in: providing equitable education access for all Seattle students.
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