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City Year director speaks on leadership

Published: April 5, 2012
Section: News


The Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education hosted a lunch seminar on Monday led by Dr. Max Klau, a Harvard graduate and the director of leadership development at City Year. Klau discussed leadership and development of City Year participants, called core members, in the event titled “Fanning the Flame of Idealism: How City Year Develops Leaders Through National Service.”

“We want to make all of City Year a leadership learning community, creating a culture where people feel comfortable,” Klau said.

City Year’s slogan is “Give a year. Change the world.” Founded in Boston in 1988, City Year places core members aged 17 to 24 into schools where they serve as mentors and tutors to students from lower income areas. Since its opening, members have been placed in the United States, South Africa and London. City Year is continuing to expand as it nears its 25th anniversary.

Klau led the seminar participants through two activities that core members do in their bi-weekly group meetings so the audience could receive a better understanding of leadership development. First, the audience was given four minutes to write personal mission leadership statements, which includes a one- to four-sentence statement beginning with the phrase, “As a leader I am …” Throughout their service core members refer back to this personal mission statement.

Core members are trained specifically to work in these lower income schools and spend 10 months volunteering in the school. Approximately 80 percent of the participants in City Year are involved in the field of education or nonprofits.

As part of leadership development and personal growth, the core members meet in groups every other week for guide-led discussions, as well as workbook reflections and leadership learning sessions. The students in each group work at different schools. Guides have gone through a very selective application process and are in their second year of service.

Klau explained that a City Year experience is complex because many different problems can arise in the classroom. Rather than having the discussion groups turn into venting sessions, City Year created models and processes designed to develop skills in problem finding. These lead to a more directed and engaging discussion for core members.