Alumni, City Year improve

By Kelley Byrne

Alumni and City Year worked together to improve public school performance this past year, and applications are open for 2014.

City Year is a group committed to public service in education and serves 20 schools in the Chicago Public School system.

“Education equality is one of the things that, as a society, we should all be working towards improving, and young adults, especially right out of college, are uniquely equipped to serve near peers to work with students and school to help bridge the gap between teachers and students,” said Patrick Magner, City Year regional recruitment manager.

Participants committed to 10 months of service in public schools where the dropout rate is typically 50 percent. The program is split between the West and South sides of Chicago. According to the City Year website, 84 percent of students in grades three through five improved on literacy assessments with help from the program.

Participants also received a stipend for living expenses, a $5,645 education award, federal student loan forbearance, and health insurance through AmeriCorps. Those wishing to apply for the 2014 to 2015 school year can visit

“By allowing young adults the opportunity to commit to a year of service, we’re not only providing leadership development opportunities and the like, but also providing this much needed opportunity for people to influence the access to an equitable education across the country,” Magner said.

Alumnus Francis Quesea, 22, participated in the City Year program for the first time and is applying to become a Team Leader in the program next year.

After graduating summer 2013 with a degree in Family and Child Studies, Quesea wanted to focus on service. During his senior year, he spoke to Magner at a job fair held at NIU. Quesea said the program could give him the opportunity to serve his community.

“I knew that I wanted to work with kids after high school. I worked retail pretty much all of high school and college, so I wanted to get out of that, and it was just like the combination of everything he was saying,” Quesea said. “I wanted to do something in service.”

Quesea works in Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy in Chicago with sixth grade English and Language Arts classes. He provides whole class support, including help with behavior as well as tutoring.

Recently, Quesea worked with Sullivan High School on a service project in which hallways were painted with quotes and murals and benches were built.

About 700 volunteers came to help out, Quesea said. He was part of a group of 30 people who painted quotes on the hallways.

“City Year has definitely given me the means to develop my leadership skills,” Quesea said. “They put you in a whole bunch of different situations. We do event planning, work with our kids. They just give you a lot of leadership opportunities which is nice.”