This Semester, Organize a Book Drive!

  • Aug 27, 2015


Everybody loves a good book drive. Why? Lots of reasons.

For one thing, deep down inside, people like to share. People also like books, and chances are they have a few volumes lying around that would be of much more use in someone’s hands than they are on a shelf collecting dust. Moreover, the people who will eventually receive and dive-into those generously-donated books are usually the sort who truly value them.

So it’s a win-win.

An that’s not even taking into account the good will generated by the effort, or the feeling of accomplishment enjoyed by the folks who organized the book drive in the first place.

And that’s where you come in—teacher, student, administrator, parent, librarian, or just plain interested. You’re the one who is going to seek out willing partners and get this thing rolling. But first, you’re going to pay a visit to the official web site of United We Serve, where you’ll find a terrific toolkit that will help you mount the best book drive ever.

And once you do, please be sure to tell us all about it on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Meet Tiana Hill — Tutor, Mentor, Role Model, City Year Corps Member and DIRECTV Math Achievement Award Winner

  • Jul 02, 2015


Beginning this week, we’re proud to introduce you to our 2015 DIRECTV Math Achievement Award winners.

Each of these young people has spent 12 months as an AmeriCorps Member, serving as tutors and mentors to struggling students in high-poverty communities. We think you’ll agree that their enthusiasm for teaching and public service is refreshing.

Our first interview is with Tiana Hill (right).

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and why you came to join City Year as a Corps Member.

I am from Chicago, Illinois, and I graduated from Miami University with a degree in Family Studies. I joined City Year because I want to be a positive role model to students who come from a similar background as me. I wanted to show them that where you come from doesn’t have to determine your future. Being a mentor and helping youth is my passion, and City Year gave me the opportunity to do that. I really love City Year’s mission and I wanted to be a part of it. Someday, I want to start my own community center back in Chicago and felt that City Year would give me experience and ideas that would help me make my dream come true.

And what about the school where you served? What were the highlights and challenges you faced as a tutor and mentor there?

I served at Broadmoor Middle School in Baton Rouge, which serves about 500 6-8th grade students. The school is majority low-income students—95% qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Working with the students in the 7th grade was so amazing. Not only did I make an impact on them, but they made an impact on me. At first it was a challenge getting the students to focus on school. Sometimes, the students seemed not to be as invested in learning as they should be. Finding creative ways to get the kids engaged, however, was one of the highlights of my service—I got the opportunity to get to know them and used what they like to get them engaged. They loved to have a competition with one another, and especially against me. After discovering this I came up with games and activities that made them excited about learning even when we are not playing a game.

Briefly describe your history with math, have the concepts always come easily to you or did you struggle with the subject? Did you have a great math teacher or mentor in your past that influenced your ability to inspire math achievement?

Math has always been my favorite subject. In school math was the subject that I was always great at. I have had amazing math teachers throughout my years in school. Because math came easily to me, my high school math teacher, Mr. E, always went the extra mile to give me work that challenged me—even college level math. He is still one of my mentors today.

What math concept/unit was the most challenging for your students to grasp and how did you work with them to develop an understanding of it?

My students struggled with algebraic expressions and working with fractions. I created interactive lessons and used manipulatives, such as color-coded cards representing positive and negative integers, so that students knew to add and subtract more easily. This was the way my students learned best. They were very active and learned from hands-on learning.

Please share your favorite math-related anecdote from your time with City Year. For example, was there one student that really struggled to grasp a math concept that finally had an “a-ha!” moment, did you use a creative method to get a group of students excited about math?

One of my favorite moments this year was when my student, who struggled with the English language, answered a question during the “boys against girls math battle”. Her face lit up and she yelled out the answer. She was very quiet and had problems in her classes because she had just come from Vietnam and didn’t understand what we were saying. I started working with her one-on-one using Google Translate and other translation sites. After a while she started to pick up on the concepts. That day was the first time she answered a question without any help. Everyone in the class cheered her on and the look on her face was priceless. You could tell that she was very proud of herself.

What advice do you have for teachers, mentors and other City Year Corps Members that work with students who struggle with math?

Learn what your students are interested in and use that when planning lessons. Connect the math problems to something that they can relate to.

DIRECTV is committed to supporting (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning at K-12 schools, with a strong focus on math as the foundation for organized thinking and problem-solving. What are your thoughts on the importance of STEM subjects, and especially math, for today’s students and their futures?

STEM is very important for our students and their future because we use this in our everyday lives. As this world changes our children will have to know these valuable skills to survive and keep up with the world.

Lastly, what about your future? What are your plans?

I plan on getting my Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Management and Criminal Justice. I want to open up a Community Center that would provide extracurricular and tutoring for kids in low-income neighborhoods for free. I also plan on working with kids in the juvenile justice system.


NOTE: For more information on City Year, visit the organization’s official web site.

And be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


Make better happen by becoming a City Year Americorps Member

  • Feb 12, 2015


Each year, while most of us simply lament student performance and the general state of education in America, nearly 3,ooo young people between the ages of 17 and 24 are stepping-up to #makebetterhappen by pledging 11 months of service to City Year, an organization that seeks to bridge the education gap in high-poverty communities through tutoring, mentorship and role-modelling.

And take it from us, City Year Corps members are  making better happen—giving kids the one-on-one attention they need and helping to increase graduation rates across the country. Over the past seven months or so we’ve introduced you to a few of these outstanding young people, winners of our new Math Achievement Award, and the one thing they all exhibit is a strong desire to see every child get the education they deserve.

Check out the video below for a sample of what makes City Year volunteers so special. And if you think you’ve got what it takes to make better happen, apply to become a Corps Member today (applications for 2015-2016 are open until Monday, February 15!).

The potential benefits for both you and the students you serve will be immeasurable.

To receive more information about opportunities like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Help foster the leaders of tomorrow

  • Jan 16, 2015

Halo Effect

Kids are getting up to some really interesting things these days.

Take Sarah Dewitz of Orlando, Florida, for example. At just 15-years-old she runs a charity organization that has thus far collected and distributed half a million books to children and families from low-income neighborhoods (see video, below).

Or Nicholas Cobb, who began collecting toiletries for the needy at the age of 7 and later, as an Eagle Scout project, created a non-profit organization that raises money to purchase coats for homeless families.

Amazing young people doing amazing things, and now their stories are available to inspire everyone thanks to  TeenNick’s Halo Effect.

Each month, the Halo Effect initiative honors a teen who’s making an impact in their community and, moreover, drawing others to their cause. Check it out for yourself, and if you know a teenager who fits the bill you might want to consider nominating them for honor.

In any case, please spread the word about TeenNick’s Halo Effect. You never know who you might inspire.

And to receive information about other great opportunities like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

NOTE: TeenNick is channel 303 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE channel lineup.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

DIRECTV partners with City Year to honor outstanding math mentors

  • Jul 03, 2014


DIRECTV’s commitment to K-12 schools and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education recently yielded a few proud smiles when the company honored a handful of young people who’ve dedicated a year of their lives to helping at-risk high school students make strides in math.

The five honoreesfour in Los Angeles and one in Denverwere recognized upon “graduation” from twelve months of service with City Year, a volunteer organization that seeks to bridge the education gap in high-poverty communities through tutoring, mentorship and role-modelling. The students were honored with DIRECTV’s  first Math Achievement Awards, selected for both the  grade average and standardized math assessment scores of the students they served. All five received prize packages that included certificates of recognition and a year of free DIRECTV.

“At DIRECTV, we believe that math is the foundation for all STEM learning,” said Brynne Dunn, DIRECTV Corporate Citizenship. “We were thrilled to recognize these City Year Corps Members for their inspiring dedication to student achievement in math.”

Here are their names, along with the schools at which they served:

In Los Angeles: Myeisha Bobo, 116th Elementary School; Paiab Thao, Muir Middle School; Joshua De Bets, Hollenbeck Middle School; and Kayla Webb, UCLA Community School.

In Denver: Michelle Ramirez, CMS Community School.

Over the coming months, be sure to check this space for interviews with each of the winners. They’re an inspiring bunch, eager to share their experiences and explain how they were able to convince struggling students that they could indeed do the math.

And for more information on becoming involved with City Year, visit their web site.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

city year 2

(l. to r.) City Year Los Angeles Executive Director Mary Jane Stevenson; Myeshia Bobo; Brynne Dunn, DIRECTV Corporate Citizenship; Paiab Thao; Joshua De Bets; and Kayla Webb. Not pictured here is Michelle Ramirez, who was honored at a ceremony in Denver, Colorado.