DPU alumni volunteer with high school students via City Year

Service has always been part of DePaul’s mission, and some alumni are implementing that value to guide high school students to college through volunteer work at City Year.

City Year is “an education focused, nonprofit organization that unites young people of all backgrounds for a year of full-time service to keep students in school and on track to graduation,” according to the organization’s mission statement. There are 24 locations across the country, including one in Chicago, and its ultimate goal is to minimize the high school drop out rate.

According to Mike Mosley, City Year Chicago’s marketing and communications coordinator, the organization hires volunteers between ages 18-24 that commit to a year of full-time service. Volunteers then become tutors and mentors for students in need and focus on attendance, behavior and course performance to achieve City Year’s mission.

Spencer Hendrixson graduated from DePaul in June as an English major with a focus in creative writing. His decision to work with City Year was based on the time he spent tutoring in high school. To him, the experience was extremely rewarding, and he wanted to take that to schools in need.

Additionally, he volunteered frequently during his time at DePaul and considers his work at City Year to be a continuation of those Vincentian values.

“DePaul always pushed me towards service, and one of City Year’s goals is being part of a cause greater than oneself,” said Hendrixson.

Hendrixson began working with City Year in July, and he will work with them through May 2013. He teaches freshmen English and reading at Paul Robeson High School, and divides his time between the entire class, groups and one-on-one assistance.

“Many of my students are a year or two older than freshmen are supposed to be, are not at their correct grade levels and have socio-emotional needs and troubled backgrounds,” said Hendrixson.

According to Mosley, DePaul students were among the greatest number of applicants last year. He believes DePaul’s strong emphasis on service and education makes alumni quality candidates for the organization. They fit its mission, he said, and understand the “importance of helping out the community.”

“It’s already embedded into the DePaul culture,” said Mosley. “Plus, they’re highly qualified.”

Hendrixson is confident that his decision to work at City Year will translate into a worthwhile experience. It’s been an emotional year for him, but his students always remind him why he signed up in the first place.

“In many cases, my teammates and myself are the most important, caring people in our students’ lives, and we will not abandon them,” said Hendrixson.

Ultimately, Hendrixson hopes to reach as many students as he can before May. He believes in what City Year does, and he believes in his own ability to guide students on a path toward college.

“Everyday I experience students wanting to learn and being unable to do so because of their surroundings,” said Hendrixson. “They can’t change their surroundings, but we can.”