City Year And Comcast: Creating A Committed Workforce

Last April, David L. Cohen stood before hundreds of government, nonprofit, and education leaders in Washington D.C. during an annual leadership event hosted by City Year, one of Comcast NBCUniversal’s largest community partners. David, senior executive vice president of Comcast and vice chair of City Year’s national board, was there to highlight the transformative impact national service can have on young people – both those on the receiving end as well as those who volunteer their time and talents.

David L Cohen at City Year
Comcast Senior Executive Vice President David L. Cohen addressing City Year’s National Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.

"It is without a doubt that national service participants possess the passion and leadership skills that employers like Comcast NBCUniversal want in our workforce," he told the audience. Then David named someone specific he had in mind – Chelsea Badeau, a former City Year corps member and current Comcast employee.

In 1998, Chelsea had just graduated from high school and had an acceptance letter to Beaver College (now Arcadia University) in hand, but she wasn’t quite ready to go. At 18, she was unsure exactly what it was she wanted to do – until she picked up a pamphlet about City Year and decided to sign up.

Founded in 1988 by two Harvard Law School roommates, City Year is an educational nonprofit that recruits what it calls "corps members," like Chelsea, to dedicate a year of their lives to making a difference in the lives of schoolchildren. Today, corps members in their signature red jackets work at 26 public schools in high-poverty, urban areas across the nation, helping students stay in school and on track to graduate high school.

For Chelsea, now editorial director of Xfinity.com at the company’s headquarters in Philadelphia, the concept of service was hardly new – her parents had opened their home to 20 adopted children over the years.

Chelsea City Year
Comcast employee Chelsea Badeau (left) helped mentor students in Chicago during her year of City Year service.

Chelsea was their firstborn and six weeks old when a parishioner from her parents’ church shared his experience working alongside Mother Theresa to help orphans in India. Her parents were so moved that they visited an adoption agency the very next day. Growing up, Chelsea’s siblings ranged in age, race, and physical ability, and her family eventually opened their own adoption agency. Their example inspired Chelsea from a young age to do what she could to give back to others.

During her year of service with City Year, Chelsea was assigned to the Carole Robertson Center for Learning on Chicago’s West Side. The neighborhood surrounding the Center has its challenges; during Chelsea’s time there, more than 58 percent of adults were unemployed. City Year corps members assisted with the Center’s programs, which served children from infancy through young adulthood.

"I built really special relationships with the kids and their parents," says Chelsea, who during her year of service assisted with the after-school mentoring program, organized service events, and led a photography workshop for older children.

Nearly 17 years later, Chelsea still relies on the lessons she learned during her year of service. At Comcast, Chelsea oversees content on our customer website, including information about our products and services. She routinely collaborates with teams from across the company and has to think fast when it comes to what news to cover and when.

Chelsea and Daughter
Former City Year corps member Chelsea Badeau shares the value of volunteering with her daughter, Chloe, during Comcast Cares Day.

When she reflects on the demands of her job today, Chelsea remembers the time during her year of service that she and her team were asked to set up an impromptu spring break camp for 300 Chicago public school students. "We had to create a week-long camp out of thin air," Chelsea recalls. "That meant filling 45 hours with programming for different ages and skill levels, making sure we had enough staff to supervise the kids, and creating a budget for activities. I can look back now and call it character-building, but at the time it was insane!"

At Comcast, Chelsea has found several opportunities to fill her passion for volunteering. She has organized holiday food drives, collected winter coats for homeless youth, and donated DVDs to our troops overseas. She mentored an at-risk student through Comcast’s partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and for the last three years, she has coordinated a Comcast Cares Day project at a Philadelphia-area community garden.

"Comcast is really supportive of its employees’ volunteer efforts, even efforts outside our established programs," she says. "I wanted to paint a mural at Philadelphia’s family court building to help the kids walking in feel more comfortable, and Comcast helped pay for the paint and supplies."

Chelsea has made a special point as well of staying connected to City Year, including by participating in an annual "Career Day" that Comcast NBCUniversal hosts for corps members to help them transition out of their year of service and into the workforce. Since 2005, more than 10,000 corps members across the country have attended these Career Days – and those in Philadelphia have heard from Chelsea about how she translated her City Year experience into professional career skills.

"Not only did City Year help me grow, they helped me grow up," Chelsea says. "City Year taught me real-world skills, like how to write a resume and file my taxes, and now I have the opportunity to help young corps members do the same."

Click here to read a Huffington Post blog by City Year CEO Michael Brown about Comcast’s commitment to developing leaders like Chelsea.

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