This post originally appeared on the City Year Los Angeles Blog.
Every student has the potential to succeed. Inside each one of them is a doctor, lawyer, teacher, or rocket scientist. But what does it take to unlock that potential?
For starters, it takes great teachers doing what they do best in the classroom, and the leadership of a great principal. But given the extraordinary challenges that our students face, it often takes more than that.
Too many of our students, especially those in our highest need neighborhoods, face circumstances far beyond their control. Violence, gangs, and poverty are realities that our students have to navigate before they even walk on to campus, and well after they leave. These factors cause students to lose focus on their studies, or worse, limit what they think they can achieve for themselves.
Last year, 61 percent of our students graduated from high school on time. While tremendous gains have been made in our district, our graduation rates are nowhere near where we want them to be. And we won't get there by ourselves. Fortunately, we have found amazing partners to help us with this work, and our partnership with City Year is one that I am particularly proud of. City Year corps members fill the gaps for students who need extra care and attention. They are a presence in our schools day-in and day-out and provide our students the support they so greatly need. When a student doesn't show up to school, City Year gets them back in. When they're behind in their coursework, City Year corps members catch them up.
Most importantly, these young adults show our students that poverty isn't destiny and that success is possible. They exemplify the motto "If I can do it, then you can do it too." They dare our students to dream dreams bigger than themselves and show the ways to achieve them.
Corps members are motivators, and after their year of service they will go off to be other things -- doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, policy makers -- you name it. City Year corps members transfer that motivation directly to our students. As recent college and high school graduates, corps members could be off doing other things but they haven't. They have taken a year of their lives to invest in the next generation, and that is a resource you can't put a price tag on.
The goal of public education is to build the next generation of leaders. We won't rest until all of our students are college and workforce ready. I want to thank City Year for their service and dedication to the students and communities of Los Angeles. In you, we have found a partner that is truly making a difference and I am excited to see the progress we will make together this year.
Dr. Deasy will give the keynote address at City Year Los Angeles' Opening Day ceremony on September 7, 2012 where 275 young leaders pledge to give a year of their lives to strengthen the communities of Los Angeles.
To learn more about City Year's work in schools, watch the video below and visit cityyear.org.