AmeriCorps volunteers, who tutor in the citys schools, regularly gather in Washington Sq. to exercise and energize.
The redcoats are here, and theyre recruiting
By Malka Percal
Its early morning, and a troop of stalwart young people floods Washington Sq. Park. More than 100 strong, they are outfitted in khaki pants and red jackets. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning they drill in the park, dispatching an assortment of jumping jacks, stretches and lunges. Then they shout out slogans that have no meaning to anyone but themselves. Theyre the foot soldiers of City Year New York, and they want to change the world.
Actually, the young men and women are big-hearted volunteers from across the country who choose to work for a year or more in New York City schools, tutoring and mentoring kids in underserved neighborhoods. City Year, an AmeriCorps program that was founded in 1988, now has troops in 15 cities across America. City Year New York is only 2 years old, and its thriving. Starting in 2004 with 50 volunteers, it has 100 volunteers this year, and in 2006 will have 135 volunteers. Nationwide this year, City Year has 1,000 corps members and several hundred staffers. Working in small teams, most corps members work at elementary or middle schools four days a week and meet for group training and workshops on Fridays. Other teams develop programming or work as after-school mentors.
City Year New York is inviting young people between the ages of 17 and 24, to join its ranks. While the organization recruits nationwide, 60 percent of the New York City slots are set aside for New York City residents. The organization accepts not only pre- and post-college students, but also post-high school students and even provides G.E.D. training and child care. Would-be volunteers undergo several interviews, and approximately one out of three applicants is accepted to start the program in September. Recruits train for a month and then join a small team under the direction of a senior (second-year) corps member. Each volunteer receives a stipend of $250 a week, plus a tuition grant of $4,750 at the end of the 10-month year of service. The deadline for application is May 15.
Government funding via AmeriCorps accounts for one-third of City Years nationwide $40 million budget. The bulk of the programs funding, however, is provided by corporate sponsors that also mentor individual teams and muster volunteer manpower for large-scale community projects. New York sponsors include Bain & Co., Cisco, Citigroup, Comcast and the Founding Citizens Team. City Years signature bright red coats, of which the volunteers are inordinately proud, are provided by another key sponsor, Timberland.
For more information on volunteering or the program, see the City Year Web site, www.cityyear.org, or call 646-452-3633.