If you have ever been mentored by someone, it’s easy to understand mentoring's enormous positive impact. The Boston legal community is well aware of this and has partnered with City Year Boston to help increase the amount of mentoring available to students at risk of going off track and dropping out of school.
On Friday, March 2, over 400 members of the Boston legal community gathered at a legal breakfast event to learn about City Year Boston and what they can do to help. City Year is an education-focused non-profit organization headquartered in Boston that unites dynamic young leaders of all backgrounds, known as corps members, in the mission to keep students in school and on track to high school graduation.
City Year corps members do everything from calling a student’s home when students don’t show up for school to helping students with their homework after school. To put things into perspective, some of the kids mentored by corps members dream of having an actual place to live instead of living in a car. Imagine how much more difficult it is to get a proper education in that situation.
The unique thing about City Year’s model is that it helps both mentors and mentees. Corps members gain an appreciation for the problems that many students face, they gain an appreciation for diversity, they develop leadership skills, and they have a life-changing experience they will never forget. At the same time, at-risk students mentored by corp members receive positive guidance and support and have someone that pays attention to them – and that is life changing. Without this guidance, many students would drop out of school, end up on the wrong path in society, and have no chance at a real future.
According to research used by City Year, students who are at risk of dropping out display specific characteristics such as poor attendance and unsatisfactory behavior, which can be identified as early as 6th grade. Dropouts are three times more likely than college graduates to be unemployed and 8 times more likely than high school graduates to be incarcerated. More than 12 million American students are projected to drop out over the next decade, costing the nation up to $3trillion. Mark Polebaum, legal event Co-Chair and Executive Vice President & General Counsel at MFS Investment Management, said “education is the key to success in America, and it’s critical to address the most fundamental risk in our society to our children attaining a quality education - the drop-out crisis.”
Jeff Berardi, Chief Marketing Officer at global law firm K&L Gates, said “getting to kids early is critical, and City Year's work helps to promote greater diversity in the workplace by making education more accessible, as well as providing support and guidance to students who are most at risk of dropping out of school.”
Lisa Sheeler, Vice President & Assistant General Counsel at MFS Investment Management, said “I had seen the City Year red jackets around Boston and knew MFS is a strong supporter of City Year, so I got involved to learn more about the legal initiative.” The legal initiative was led by City Year’s Matthew Parks this year. Bruce Leicher, Senior Vice President & General Counsel at Momenta Pharmaceuticals, said “not only is it fun to come to the legal breakfast event and see old friends and colleagues, but I also get to meet City Year corp members and learn about the work they are doing. I would love my daughter to be a City Year corp member when she gets out of college.”
Laura Peabody, Chief Legal Officer at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, said “it is easy to see the impact City Year has through statistics on the progress City Year is making in the schools.”
Harvard Pilgrim co-sponsors a City Year team in a Boston middle school that serves over 800 students. Its Foundation has already committed to continue its sponsorship beyond this year.
Peabody said “there’s a disparity in education. All kids should have positive role models in school and opportunities to be successful. City Year helps with that.”
The drop out statistics are shocking but true, and City Year is chipping away at them one student at a time. The more financial support City Year receives, the more its corps members can help off-track students turn their lives around and play a positive role in society. Claudia Gilman, ACC Northeast Board Member and International Legal Consultant, said “I know of no better way to invest in our young people at risk.”
Boston Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson and City Year are partnering to deploy 265 corps members to serve in 23 schools to reach 25% of all off-track students in Boston next year.
This kind of collaboration is crucial when we tackle our most stubborn challenges.
Ellen Keiley is a Vice-Chair of the City Year Legal Community Breakfast and a member of the Business Development Department at international law firm, K&L Gates. She can be contacted at ellen.keiley [AT] klgates [DOT] com
Take our survey and tell us what stories and features you'd like to read in Global Business Hub.