City Year's 'Near Peers' Keep Milwaukee Students on Track

Oct 16, 2013

City Year Milwaukee puts young adults in classrooms around the city to help keep students on track.
Credit City Year Milwaukee

There are a lot of organizations who work to supplement the work of public schools in this country – especially in places like Milwaukee, where resources are often extremely limited.

There are teaching corps, like Teach for America, arts organizations which provide additional programming, and, in the case of one national organization, groups that work simply to help schools run more smoothly.

City Year places young adults in eight schools in Milwaukee.  The Corps members are there to simply keep students on task, through tutoring and mentorship, and slow the high school dropout rate. 

"We're a supplement in the classroom, and work in teams with the teacher to help support students in that way," says Jason Holton, executive director and Vice President of City Year Milwaukee.

In the process, school leaders say the Corps members are having a positive impact on morale throughout the school.

"They’re committed, they’re determined," says Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts principal Mark Lawrence. "I left last night at around 5:30-quarter to six, and here they are, walking out of the building the same time I am.  The heart is there, the desire is there to provide assistance.  And they’re young, they’re green, they’re growing, but they’re willing to learn."

Yet part of the Corps members' success comes from their age. The 17-24 year old Corps members often work with young teens only a few years younger. Holton calls them "near peers" to the students they are mentoring.

"They're old enough to command a certain amount of respect, but young enough to understand, to be only a few years removed from going through that themselves," he says.

"They listen to the same music, they watch the same TV programs, live in the same neighborhoods," says Lawrence, the principal.

Milia Mims is a Corps Member serving at James Madison Academic Campus.  She graduated in May from UW-Whitewater. She says the program is mutually beneficial, from the daily trainings to work with the students to the professional training for the Corps members.

"City Year not only wants to see you succeed in what you're doing for your children now, but they to see you succeed in your future, too," she says.