The Chicago White Sox Team Serving at Paul Robeson High School

It was 4:05 p.m. and the Stand and Declare Club was running a little late. City Year Chicago corps member Guys Harris runs into the library carrying the supplies he’ll need for the day — two posters covered with famous African-American artists, pens and markers, and some note cards. Guy decided he’d keep things simple for the first day.

“So I want you write down someone — someone who isn’t on this poster — who you think stood and declared. Who do you think stood up and made a difference,” Guy said to the small group of freshman students who were gathered around the table.

Students mentioned popular musicians like Michael Jackson and Nicki Minaj, but then it came to the last student who wrote down someone different.

“I put down Martin Luther King, Jr.,” the boy said. “He brought together all kinds of people to fight for equal rights. He stood up for what he believed in.”

Guy Harris smiled. The Stand and Declare club at Paul Robeson High School was off to a good start.

The posters for the Stand and Declare club at Paul Robeson High School.

The corps members serving at Paul Robeson High School are clocking in almost two months of service already, and together the team has created new initiatives, new after school clubs, and a new  City Year culture for the Robeson Raiders.

The Robeson team is being generously sponsored by the Chicago White Sox — a longtime champion of City Year Chicago and organizer of the White Sox Volunteer Corps. The Chicago White Sox are based in Chicago’s South Side — along with Robeson High School.

Ayman Bari,  corps member serving at Robeson, is a 22-year-old graduate of Michigan State University. On Tuesday afternoon he was hurrying to get out of the school during his work time so he could do some in-kinding for the upcoming VIP lounge.

Between bites of his lunch and packing up his backpack, Ayman talked about why he decided to do City Year.

“Both of my parents immigrated from India with very little money and knowing very little about America,” Ayman said. “They put two kids through college, and instilled in me the importance of education. I want to do that for kids who seldom have the opportunity to succeed.”

As the team’s Attendance Coordinator, 22-year-old Kate Stucke from Decatur, GA is responsible for planning initiatives to keep attendance up at Robeson. Her team is currently working on setting up their first VIP Lounge — a space for students with good attendance to come and celebrate their accomplishment. VIP Lounges serve up food and fun for students.

Kate graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in communication studies and leadership studies. As a leadership studies student, Kate took various classes about leadership and participated in hands-on activities. She even learned how to facilitate team builders — something that came in handy upon beginning City Year.

“One of the things I learned as someone studying leadership is how important it is to have new opportunity,” Kate said. “I’m excited to be a part of the first team here at Robeson because I appreciate the ‘openness’ of being able to make our own path.  The unknown excites me.”

Kate hopes her passion for leadership and service are contagious as she starts the Robeson Leadership Service Corps — a club dedicated to helping promote citizen service among young people and to get them active in their neighborhoods.

Kate and the rest of her team are led by Senior Corps Member Jeff Shafer. Jeff is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago and is serving his first year at City Year Chicago.

“Some people ask me why I’m here and they assume that City Year is a path for future educators, but I see it as me being an activist,” Jeff said. “I’ve always been interested in education reform and I saw City Year as a platform for me to get involved in education reform.”

Shafer said that growing up he saw a lot of cracks in the education system and didn’t understand why there were so many inequalities, this sparked his interest in education and eventually his interest in City Year.

“There are a lot of leaders here at Robeson — in the students that we serve and in City Year team that I’m a part of —  so if I can do the even the smallest thing to bring out that leadership than I’m happy to be doing what I’m doing and being a part of this organization.”

Check out the video below and watch as Jeff Shafer talks about CYCHI and his love for being a team leader!


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