Educational programs Red Nose Day

Mentoring Children for Life

Case Study

All kids have the potential to succeed. But for the more than 10 million kids living in poverty in the United States, they often face challenges getting to school ready to learn each day. They need extra support, but often schools in high-need communities aren’t designed to provide it.

Virgil Middle School serves more than 1,500 students in grades 5 - 8 in the Koreatown community of Los Angeles. More than 80 percent of students attending the Virgil are economically disadvantaged or qualify for a free or reduced-price meal. The school's mission is to prepare all students to be college and career ready, but like so many communities there are external challenges that can hinder even their best efforts. 

Luciana* is a student at Virgil Middle School whose family immigrated to the United States from Mexico when she was young. Her father works incredibly long hours to make ends meet, often upwards of twelve hours a day, seven days a week. This has been very hard on Luciana, and she has struggled with balancing her schoolwork with some of these issues going on at home. She was falling behind in school – especially in math.

This past year, Luciana met Jennifer Gutierrez, a City Year AmeriCorps member who is serving at Virgil Middle School. Each day, Jennifer arrives before the first bell rings, and stays through the afterschool program to provide tutoring, mentoring and support to students throughout the day. "Ms. Jenny," as Luciana came to know her, and Luciana found an instant connection since her parents were also immigrants who worked two jobs to support her family.

As a mentor, Jennifer was able to build a trusted relationship with Luciana and work with her to help her stay focused in school. Together they identified the subjects Luciana excelled in and discussed how she could apply those same skills to other areas to help her improve. Now Luciana has become more focused when it comes to her academics and looks forward to seeing Jennifer.

"City Year is always prepared for when I come to school," says Luciana. "I know that if I ever need something, I can come to any City Year member without having to think about it."

Over the course of just 10 weeks, Luciana’s math score has risen a full grade letter. Her confidence has grown, and she believes she’s capable of succeeding in school, even when City Year is not around. She plans to use her new skills to focus on accomplishing her goals in middle school and beyond.

Sometimes placing a single caring mentor in a student's life can be the difference in whether or not they succeed.

*Please note: We have changed the student name to protect the student’s identity