A mayor, three physicians and public health specialists, seven school principals and educators, and 28 executive directors and nonprofit leaders. These are some of the outstanding members of a special group of 67 people working in communities nationwide to change our world for the better – and they all have three things in common.
First, through the nonprofit City Year, they each committed a year to helping at-risk youth stay in school in some of the nation’s toughest communities. Second, after their year of service ended, they each continued giving back on their own. Third, as City Year alumni, all 67 have earned the distinction of receiving the Comcast NBCUniversal Leadership Award. I’m proud and humbled to be counted among them as a co-founder of a nonprofit, Big Citizen Hub, which aims to engage young people from middle schools through their mid-20s in social service projects.
Recently, I had the opportunity to join David L. Cohen, Comcast’s Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, in Boston at a ceremony recognizing the latest group of Comcast NBCUniversal award winners. They are:
Mubarak Lawrence and Alex Peay, who together founded Rising Sons, Inc., a Philadelphia nonprofit that helps young adults prepare for careers and encourages civic engagement;
Dan Foley, City Year Jacksonville’s Vice President and Executive Director, who has helped the site grow from seven to 12 schools, serving more than 10,000 students;
Brent Holsinger, who started On the Road Collaborative, a Virginia-based nonprofit that sets underserved middle school students on the path to college and career;
Whitney Parnell, who co-founded Service Never Sleeps, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C. that mobilizes young professionals and the corporate sector to work on social justice issues; and
Beth Marco Bayouth, my fellow Co-Founder and Director of Strategy and Development at Big Citizen HUB.
For each of these winners, I know their year of service changed their life’s purpose, as it did mine. After spending 11 years with City Year in San Jose, Philadelphia and Los Angeles helping to build City Year’s Heroes Program, a weekend service program for kids, I wanted to start my own organization that could serve as a sort of City Year for kids. There are young people in every community who want to change the world, but they often lack the skills, access and network to do it. What if I created a space to bring them together, teach them skills and help build their network?
That’s how Big Citizen HUB started two years ago. We have worked with more than 500 young people from more than 70 neighborhoods in Los Angeles, who together have volunteered 50,000 hours on community service projects.
As a new school year begins across our country, City Year is busy right now training more young people for impactful careers by placing them in more than 300 high-need schools around the country. The ultimate goal is to work with students in all subjects and convince them to stay in school and on track to graduation.
There are other benefits as well. Many of those young people about to start their City Year service year will, like me, have the privilege of working alongside great leaders and incredibly passionate people who share a drive to improve our world. Together, we are changing the trajectory of lives for the better and I’m glad there are companies like Comcast NBCUniversal that share our mission of helping young people succeed in school and life.