City Year Milwaukee grows with recent grads

For Milwaukee’s City Year corps members, who provide services to young, struggling students in schools across Milwaukee, representing the schools they work with and the teams they are a part of means everything to them.

“I proudly serve on the Brewers Community Foundation Team … at Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts,” said Kelsey Massey, a 2012 Marquette graduate.

Massey is one of 71 members of City Year Milwaukee, four of whom are current and former Marquette students, all working toward “changing the world one student at a time” by providing one-on-one attention for students struggling in Milwaukee schools. City Year corps members serve as tutors, mentors and service providers, according to the organization’s website.

The organization serves students ranging from third to ninth grade, said Kara Navin, corporate and foundation partnerships manager at City Year Milwaukee.

“(The grades we serve) were determined based on a study at Johns Hopkins University that found that students who are most at risk of dropping out of school can be identified as early as middle school through three early warning indicators: attendance, behavior and course performance,” she said. “When just one of these off-track indicators is exhibited by a student as early as the sixth grade, they have less than a 25 percent likelihood of graduating from high school.”

City Year Milwaukee currently works with the Milwaukee Public Schools system but hopes to expand its reach in the future, Navin said.

“Teachers don’t always get the chance (to provide extra help to students),” City Year participant and 2012 Marquette graduate Alea Cross said. “We can offer that one-on-one attention (that) some of these students need.”

City Year is helping Milwaukee’s students stay in school with the support of sponsors like the Brewers Community Foundation, M&I Foundation Inc. and David and Julia Uihlein Charitable Foundation.

“We’re proud to have these sponsors,” said Erin Thiemann, another 2012 Marquette graduate in City Year. “We couldn’t do all the things we’re able to do without them.”

Thiemann said she has had City Year Milwaukee in her sights since she started at Marquette in 2009.

“I graduated a year early to do City Year,” she said. “I wanted to give back to the community that had been my home for three years.”

Massey said her passion for quality education can be attributed to her parents.

“My parents instilled in me the value of an education,” Massey said. “City Year empowers us to help these kids, who might not feel as though education is a gift, see that it is.”

For Thiemann, working with City Year Milwaukee has helped burst the “Marquette bubble” she said many students live in.

“I love Marquette, but I definitely feel there’s a Marquette bubble,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot about Milwaukee.”

Thiemann works in the Lindsey Heights neighborhood at Hopkins Lloyd Community School, located at 1503 W. Hopkins St.

Cross said City Year’s members do more than help Milwaukee’s students – they learn about themselves, too.

“It’s about learning the gift of me and how I want to impact education,” Cross said. “Being a product of (the) TRIO (program), a first generation college student and an Educational Opportunity Program member, I want to see the pipeline that feeds these students into this life.”

City Year Milwaukee’s corps members make a lasting impact on the community, Thiemann said.

“I absolutely believe in the power of young people,” she said. “A group of five, ten or twenty young people can make a difference. I firmly believe that.”

 “We can see the impact we’ve made,” Massey said. “Just knowing I’ve touched one child’s life would be remarkable.”