City Year
3.5 of 5 125 reviews
www.cityyear.org Cleveland, OH 150 to 499 Employees

City Year Reviews

Updated Mar 17, 2014

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3.5 125 reviews

                             

89% Approve of the CEO

City Year President Michael Brown

Michael Brown

(63 ratings)

66% of employees recommend this company to a friend
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Very frustrating experience

Anonymous Employee (Current Employee)

I have been working at City Year for less than a year

Pros-Opportunity to work with students who really need it
-It really helps you figure out what you are and are NOT interested in
-A great, comprehensive glimpse into America's education system
-The mission is important
-Good leadership and teamwork experience

ConsI think that the most important thing to know about City Year is that your experience will vary GREATLY depending on your sponsor and school environment. At my site, the teams with the overall best experience have very engaged sponsors, a welcoming school, and competent, driven leadership. It also depends on your team relationship and how discipline is handled.

There is also a huge lack of consistency in City Year that breeds a lot of resentment between corps members. At my site, some teams work less than ten hour days while other teams work eleven or almost twelve. Some teams are also not penalized for dress code or tardy violations, while others are written up consistently. We are also infrequently allowed to take days off or leave early, while other teams have members who have missed beyond their allowed time without consequence. This causes a lack of unity and often nothing is done about it.

Because City Year is so funding and data-driven, often the needs of the corps members are not sufficiently heard. Much of the data collection is often left to corps members themselves, making the data subject to error and giving an impossible workload to corps members. PMs are not a good support system, instead they are data monitors.

The classroom is also a difficult environment. Working with a teacher is hard because there tends to be an unwanted power struggle- teachers often feel that you're imposing in some way. If your teacher does not like you, it's extremely hard to meet your "impact goals"/ have a good experience. City Year is not adequately prepared for a lot of what corps members have to deal with.

There are also very little resources for those not interested in pursuing education or social work, making the job search post-City Year daunting. You're expected to have a complete post-City Year plan early in the year, but are provided absolutely NO time in which to create said plan. You are also only given a short amount of days off, which forces you to choose between a personal (sanity) day and a day for interviews/ job hunting.

Many of the perks of City Year (college/graduate school partnerships, stipend, food assistance, AmeriCorps education award) are not made clear at the beginning. You are told the GROSS stipend amount that you'll make, but depending on certain factors, it may be $100-$200 less a month, which is almost unlivable. Food assistance (CY corps members are supposed to qualify automatically) is an incredibly long and frustrating process, especially because the offices that handle food stamps require tons of paper work and time, and often don't understand why our income isn't "income". Very little help is given in this area. Without food stamps, the stipend is COMPLETELY unlivable.

The AmeriCorps education award - $5,500 for one year- can be great or not worth it, depending on your case. Many schools match the award which makes it a great benefit, but if you have substantial student loans, I'd say that it isn't worth it. One generally defers loans during their service year, which will cost you more than you think: interest accrues daily, and in my service year I gathered more than $4,500 in interest. Because of this, I and many of my fellow corps members, are leaving with more debt than we anticipated.

I have had to work a second job the entire time I've worked with City Year and this is particularly frustrating for management. I often cannot participate in weekend events, and my PM hounds me for it. I am frequently asked if I "need" the other job, if I can possibly cut down on hours, etc. I'd recommend City Year if your parents or anyone else are/is still paying for at least some of your living expenses. City Year is unrealistic for those of us who are 100% independent/need to save money.

Overall, I do not recommend City Year for everyone. While I have learned a lot, the heavy dissatisfaction commonly felt at our site has made this experience less than fulfilling. This could be a great experience of trials and challenges that strengthen you; instead the trials and challenges and little support break you.

Advice to Senior Management-Be more organized
-Train your staff more
-Train corps members on tutoring methods instead of just branding
-Communicate better with everyone
-Encourage Program Managers to spend more time at their schools
-Focus less on whether or not we have the right kind of khakis and more on mental health

No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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Carefully packaged white guilt, privilege & idealism claiming 2 "Save the World" 1 culturally diverse photo op at a time

City Year Corps Member (Former Employee)
Chicago, IL

I worked at City Year full-time for more than a year

ProsYou meet some amazing kids and teens, when City Year cared about teens. And some of your peers are great minded people who were also duped.

ConsUnfortunately, the kids don't make up for the exploitation. The middle & high school programs were cut and the workers are overworked and insultingly underpaid. This is a bandaid company if there ever was one, no solutions to real social problems. Not much upward mobility either. It's all about how much money you raise for them, or how many you recruit. It's about the numbers, not the people.

Advice to Senior ManagementProvide student loan forgiveness for 40+ hour work weeks. Stop exploiting young dreamers!

No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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A wholly unsatisfying experience

Corps Member (Former Employee)
Philadelphia, PA

I worked at City Year as a contractor for less than a year

ProsAs another reviewers stated, the only good part about City Year is the interaction with the children, especially the ones with significant potential.

Cons- The poor management of the organization made it inefficient from the top down. Corp members were consistently left in the dark about decisions that had been made for them and had to wait until information was "rolled down" (a favorite phrase of the org). The organization hierarchy was touted almost like a caste system and corp members were treated like lower class citizens, even in situations were corps members were older or more experienced than their team leaders or program managers. The arrogance of staff members and even the former executive directors, was astounding.

- Though "inclusion" and "diversity" were apparently important themes, the organization is rampant with discriminatory practices, going so far as to hire blatantly unqualified individuals in order to gather the right number of ethnic minorities and LGBT community members. While affirmative action, serves a real, justifiable purpose, this organization was hiring individuals who could not complete the work of the children who they tutored. My own high school team had members who could not multiply fractions, use long division, or solve basic algebraic expressions.

- In addition to these "shady practices" there were several points throughout the year when unfortunate incidents occurred involving students or school administration and corps members were silenced or dismissed from the organization in order to quickly silence the problem without necessarily correcting the problem at all.

- Corp members were swamped with generally meaningless projects and tasks that served only to promote the "branding" of the organization. Friday mornings were spent stomping and dancing in the middle of the city like a cult while most Fridays (and sometimes other weekdays/weekends) were spent doing unhelpful training exercises, or community projects with very little impact. All these side tasks took away from our ability to help students in the classroom, which is what we had all come to do.

I will not complain about the pay because anyone should have known what they were signing up for, however, they were a bit tight-lipped about the exact dollar amount.

Advice to Senior Management- Actually screen candidates: There should not be corps members in a group who just want to ""make some money". Please inform them that McDonald's/Burger King/Subway pay 2-3 times as much as have shorter hours. Also make sure that these people can read and do 9th grade math (at least).

- Treat corp members with respect. They are giving their time and energy to help the kids and should have the opportunity to do so.

- Lose the cult behavior. You can keep your culture without turning every corps member into a God-fearing, left-wing extremist idealouge, or as you call it, "idealist".

- Allow for more flexibility and face time with the children who the corp members came to aid.

No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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Great mission, not executed well.

Corps Member (Current Employee)
San Jose, CA

I have been working at City Year full-time for less than a year

ProsWorking with other idealistic young people. Getting to choose any site in the country to apply to.

ConsWe only tutor each student for 15 minutes a day which makes it very difficult to make an impact. We work 11 hour days but do not have 11 hours of work to do so the company is very inefficient. There is a general disrespect of corps members and their time and we are treated like children. There are very strict rules such as not being able to drink with any employee not on the same level as you. The higher person needs to leave if they even so much as see you at a bar. The City Year way to communicate is to do so indirectly. They is a lot of general statements made instead of actually addressing the issue. Upper staff is very passive aggressive in this way as well. A lot of after hours events that come up (yes after already working 11 hour days). They ask for feedback but don't really want to change anything.

Advice to Senior ManagementTreat us like adults and respect our time. Revamp the program so it actually helps the children.

No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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City Year has so much potential, but fails miserably to follow through.

Corps Member (Current Employee)
Detroit, MI

I have been working at City Year full-time for less than a year

Pros1) Working with and mentoring kids is a special experience.

2) The Corps Members themselves are very cool and interesting (about 80% are cool and the other 20% are CRAZY and incompetent).

Cons1) The City Year superiors (Team Leaders, Program Managers, Program Directors) have proven to be largely incompetent. They make decisions in a very dictatorial fashion, focusing on growth and numbers and ignoring the needs of Corps members.

2)You follow students in classes all day, but oftentimes teachers teach for the entire class period; this means that whole class periods are spent doing nothing. There is a severe lack of productivity during the day, even though work days are upwards of 10 hours each day.

3) It is extremely stressful and often it feels futile to work in such horrible schools. The teachers and administration are often inept, and Corps Members have little power at the end of the day. Corps Members are forced to prop up support for these horrible schools. Sometimes, the only work we can do is have kids do missing assignments for full credit. This promotes bad work habits, and this isn't tutoring. This emphasis on just getting kids to do their work does little to curb the poor education that students receive.

4) City Year as an organization does little to support Corps Members. Training days happen upwards of once a week, and are frustratingly useless.

5) The data-driven approach is faulty and borderline corrupt. There is no data to understand City Year's impact on students once these students no longer have City Year to help them. In other words, City Year is so focused on short term success, that longterm success is totally ignored.

6) The culture of City Year is tacky and childish. The organization pontificates about professionalism, but promotes a culture that discourages any sense of professionalism. Management sits on their phones during trainings and doesn't uphold the same uniform standards as Corps Members.

Advice to Senior Management-Hire more competent managers.
-Seek data to see the longterm impact of City Year impact.
-Focus on quality, not quantity.

No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

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suffocating, embarrassing, inept, non-profit more interested in image than results

Corps Member (Current Employee)

I have been working at City Year full-time for less than a year

ProsYou gain school/teaching experience, but in a manner that has you feeling you're on the outside looking in.

ConsCity Year is ridiculous. They go out of their way to hire "diverse" people, at the cost of results and efficacy. High school grads still wet behind the ears, directionless college drop outs, and college grads with no prospects. They'll hire people who can barely read or write, let alone who should be around children. They hire drug addicts, alcoholics, hateful and downright abusive individuals. Reports of drug and alcohol use AT THE SCHOOL, DURING THE SERVICE DAY are punished with a slap on the wrist. City Year, rather than trying to hire people who will better the schools (or the kids, apparently whom it's all about), cares more about the numbers of "diverse" (cough*inept) people rather than actual results. This is par for the course though. If you notice, City Year very rarely can prove that corps members are actually effective at raising scores or preventing drop-outs. Rather, they just report on the sheer number of hours served, and very dubious stats that are not actually due to CM interventions or service.

We are poorly hired, poorly trained, poorly treated, poorly managed, and largely ineffective. I really regret spending this year with City Year. I wish I had looked into literally ANY other in-school service program, rather than trusting that City Year was a good organization.

No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

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A Soul-Crushing 10 months

Corps Member (Former Employee)
Philadelphia, PA

I worked at City Year full-time for less than a year

ProsThe students I got to tutor were the only good thing about City Year.

ConsCity Year exploits corps members who are college graduates to the point that it borders on abuse, (While the corps officially boasts of its "diverse corps" consisting of college graduates, high school dropouts, kids taking a year off, etc), the truth is that if you don't feel like working hard (or at all), no one at City Year will force you to do so. There is no such thing as accountability. I found that it often fell to to the college graduates to pick up the slack. There were points when my college grad/college-bound co-workers and I were in the Philadelphia office until 11 at night because each one of us was expected to do the work of 2-3 people. The rest of the team would literally go home and party while we worked. Anyone who complained was called negative and accused of "not being a team player" or "not caring about the children." Which was ridiculous, because the only thing that keeps City Year's hardest workers going are the children in the schools we work in.

Also, because corps members don't have to meet any academic standards before being hired, it is not unusual to see corps members design lesson plans that are factually incorrect. (For example, during my corps year, a group of senior corps members designed a lesson plan about the world's 4 largest religions and the organizers incorrectly said Buddhism came in at number 3. This is incorrect, the answer is Hinduism. When I pointed this out, I was chewed out and told I was being negative.)

Advice to Senior ManagementPlease get rid of the Scientology-esque culture and weird evangelism. A legendary American political figure had a major surgery during my corps year and all corps members were REQUIRED to sign a get-well card for him. It was just creepy and the only reason we were required to do it was because City Year wanted this particular politician's political support. (As I was signing it, I distinctly remember thinking, "I feel like I'm in North Korea writing a message to the Dear Leader.")

Please require that all incoming corps members take a writing and math test before being hired, It's ridiculous that City Year places 18-24 year olds who can barely read or do math into high schools. (I knew several corps members who couldn't read beyond a 5th grade level (if that), and don't get me started on math comprehension.) How does placing these people in inner-city schools solve the so-called "drop-out crisis?"

Please get a real HR Department that knows how to deal with issues like sexual harassment and homophobia. (There's a lot more that I can say about this, but I'm not sure if it would violate GD's community guidelines.) My team was also not paid on time 5 times and no one at the Philadelphia site apologized, even though human error was to blame.

Please treat your corps members with respect. My project manager was emotionally abusive to us and when it was brought to the attention of management, leadership was more concerned about sweeping the issue under the rug than actually addressing the problem.

Related: Please also give your project managers some managerial training, especially on how to be sensitive to people of non-Abrahamic religions, people of color, and the LGBT community.

Stop expanding. Part of the reason City Year is so insane is because sites set unrealistic recruitment goals. The Philadelphia site literally hires people off of the street to fill their quotas each September. I'd rather have a committed, literate corps of 75-100 young people than a corps of 300 that was mostly composed of dead weight.

No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

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City Year: The Worst Year of Your Life

Corps Member (Former Employee)
Chicago, IL

I worked at City Year

ProsThe best reasons to work for City Year are 1) a job experience that will allow you to get any job you'd like when you're done, and 2) the education award.

Cons1) 50+ hour work weeks with little to no time off permitted at less than $4/hour
2) Very poor health insurance
3) Total structural disorganization
4) Poor leadership
5) Blurry goals and vision
6) Dissonance between the ideals of the organization and the treatment of its workers

Advice to Senior ManagementTreat City Year corps members as successful human beings and not as ignorant children.

No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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Warning: City Year is Not what it Looks Like

Corps Member (Former Employee)
Cleveland, OH

I worked at City Year

ProsIf you are passionate about community service and working with youth and don't mind sitting around for hours on end doing nothing or a frustrating workplace.

ConsIf you have a problem upper management will turn it around on you. Basically, there is nothing wrong with City Year, the problem is you. Time is not managed well at all. Expect to find yourself with nothing to do for hours on end. No one cares if the other people on your team do nothing; a lazy work ethic is considered "diversity" there. Whatever happened to Americorps:Getting things done? Also, the pay is incredibly poor but you do get an education award.

Advice to Senior ManagementAccept the fact that the problem is with the organization NOT your employees. Only then will you ever be able to accomplish anything worthwhile.

No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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neither here nor there

Anonymous Employee (Former Employee)

I worked at City Year

ProsThere are many opportunities for professional development for those willing to take those opportunities--especially if you'd like to work with students in the future. This is a great way to get real, practical experience in the classroom managing and lesson planning. If you are considering a career in teaching but aren't sure, this may be for you. In some cases it can be a HUGE wake up call.

I've found that the "culture" of CY is corny and lame, yes, but that in most cases it does foster a caring atmosphere and one in which people are reading and willing to help one another.

There is great diversity in the corps. I met people who otherwise I'd never have met, many of whom were interesting, wonderful people.

It's a huge learning experience. You develop discipline, endurance, and any number of other important skills...at the very least you won't come out of the year with fewer skills than you started with (although you may be considerably more jaded).

ConsI'm going to try to be completely fair in this review:

The stipend is so low that it's downright insulting.

Deviating from CY culture and expressing discontent is frowned upon.

Long hours. For instance, I was expected at work at 7:40 and 95% of the time did not leave until 6:40. Having a nap while on hours is not allowed. Driving a car while on hours is not allowed (not even if you have your own car and your own health insurance). Riding a bicycle without a helment, however is OK with the rules. Rules are poorly thought out and unevenly enforced.

While there are many high achieving corps members in CY, work ethic is extremely varied and tends toward a lack of accountability. Those who chose not to hold themselves responsible are usually not held responsible. In general, CY is more caught up in enforcing details in the rules such as not being EVEN ONE MINUTE LATE to "team circle" or having one's shirt tucked in than it is to important things like, you know, actually doing work while at work.

Corps members are required to wear a dehumanizing uniform. I could deal with wearing a jacket and a pair of khaki pants, but there are a lot of little rules about the uniform that one can be written up about: socks MUST be black or white. Hair bands MUST be black. Wear a watch and a hair band on the same wrist? Don't even think about it. Lose your mandated nametag? Get ready to spend what equates to like 3 hours of work (seriously!) on a replacement nametag.

There is a disparity when it comes to what different CY sites actually DO in schools....this even occurs between different schools at the same site. Some sites just do tutoring. Some sites just do in classroom assisting. Etc, etc.

Many things are done inefficiently for no apparent reason (i.e. how trainings are run, websites required for use, how attendance is kept track of...it goes on and on). Over and over I was told the same schpeal : "sometimes it seems like this isn't the best way to do things, but trust City Year!"

Worst of all: I have some serious beef with the CY service model. It didn't start out as an in schools non profit, and I have the feeling that the switch was made largely because it's easier to rustle up money for such causes.

Recruits are anywhere from 17-24, mostly fresh out of high school or college. Pretty much nobody has any formal education training. CY provides trainings but the quality of those trainings varies from site to site and are generally NOT run by teaching professionals or any other such qualified individuals but rather senior corps members or staff who are training on education mostly through the lens of their previous experience solely with CY. Needless to say, trainings are NOT good enough. Corps members are essentially given a few blitz trainings on "helping children read!" and are then handed a list of students and are thrown into a school and are told to "start tutoring in literacy." Teachers at the school often are totally clueless about why CMs are pulling students out of their classrooms--some schools have awkward or downright poor relationships with CY, though to be fair some have great relationships as well.

I can only speak from my experience at my site in CA, but CMs were also expected to run an extended day after school program. That means actual classes, not just playing outside and babysitting. Most CMs are totally unqualified to be doing such work (including myself when I first started). I can say that being thrown into a classroom with minimal training and experience was one of the worst, most stressful experiences of my life. A good learning experiences, but also literally one of the worst experiences of my life.

On the whole, the experience is largely shaped by the program at your particular school, your team, and your manager (as with most jobs).

No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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