City Year UK was honoured to host a special visit from former President Bill Clinton yesterday, as part of our fifth anniversary year celebrations. The event, which took place at one of our partner schools, Haggerston School in Hackney, east London, brought together 100 of our inspirational young volunteers from across the capital, Birmingham and our new start up team in Manchester.
President Clinton met with a small group of the volunteers (known as corps members) to hear about their ‘City Year’ experience, before addressing a wider audience of business and education leaders and City Year UK alumni. He praised the young City Year UK volunteers for serving as an inspiration to children and said “You’ve changed their sense of what is possible.” He added “City Year has given you awesome skills and every child you volunteer with can be empowered to live a different tomorrow by you.”
In particular, President Clinton concentrated on how City Year empowers young people to be proud of their own identities and still be part of something bigger. He said “The answer to tomorrow is unity in diversity. It’s being more like City Year. I hope this is something that will grow and grow and grow.”
Although it was his first visit to City Year UK, President Clinton’s relationship with City Year goes back nearly a quarter of a century to 1991 when on the campaign trail, he met with what was then a small NGO in Boston, Massachusetts. That visit confirmed his view that young people everywhere were yearning to make a difference but needed the opportunity and inspired the creation of AmeriCorps, enabling 900,000 Americans to contribute 1.2 billion hours to tackle America’s most pressing problems through organisations like City Year.
City Year itself has grown into an international movement, across three continents, built on the belief that young people can change the world. As well as 27 cities in the US and City Year UK, City Year South Africa was established in 2005, following a dialogue between President Clinton and President Mandela.
Sophie Livingstone, Chief Executive of City Year UK said: “President Clinton has played an intrinsic role in City Year’s development and we’re thrilled that he has been able to join us in City Year UK’s fifth anniversary year. Since 2010, when we launched here in Hackney with just 58 young volunteers, we’ve grown to 500 volunteers who’ve given 800,000 hours, reaching 40,000 pupils.
“As President Clinton recognised in his speech, these young people have shown that through a volunteer service year, they can make a phenomenal difference to the outcomes of children growing up in challenging circumstances and change their own lives at the same time. I can’t wait to see what City Year UK’s volunteers will achieve over the next five years.”
Dr Jane Keeley, Head Teacher at Haggerston School, said: “Haggerston School has benefited from having City Year UK in school for the last three years. By modelling our ethos of developing creative, confident and capable young people, corps members support the whole school, but they also make a profound difference to the daily life of individual pupils. That might be by supporting a child with little or no English one-to-one, helping a pupil improve their behaviour or building confidence through one of the many extra-curricular activities they run.
“Team members have also taken the initiative to start up popular after-school clubs, have accompanied students and staff on trips out of school, and have greatly contributed to the life of the school simply by being positive, self-disciplined, hard-working and committed themselves.”