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LSU Announces National Partnership with City Year

Every 26 seconds, a student drops out of high school in the United States. Louisiana has one of the worst dropout rates in the nation. But there is hope despite these bleak statistics, as dedicated individuals tackle this challenge every day.

Pete November, City Year vice president of recruitment, admissions and alumni affairs, and LSU Chancellor Michael Martin officially sign LSU's give a year Partnership with City Year. LSU becomes the first public university in the country to formalize a give a year Partnership with City Year.
Eddy Perez/LSU University Relations

As one more sign of LSU's continued commitment to civic engagement and helping to combat the nation's problems, the university has become the first public institution in the nation to reward young adults who commit a year of full-time service with City Year through a give a year Partnership. City Year is a leading national youth service organization that unites young adults in a year of full-time service to help close the achievement gap and mentor at-risk students to help them stay in school and on track to graduate.

"It's delightful, it's prideful that LSU is on the cutting edge of yet another movement in engagement," said LSU Chancellor Michael Martin as he officially signed a landmark partnership agreement with City Year during a formal announcement in the Memorial Tower on Wednesday, March 30.

With this partnership, LSU becomes the first public university in the country to formalize a give a year Partnership with City Year, joining the ranks of 29 private institutions including Bentley University, Boston College, Brandeis University, Carnegie Mellon University, Duke University and New York University.

"State universities are critically important to City Year," said Pete November, City Year vice president of recruitment, admissions and alumni affairs. "They produce by far the largest group of applicants to City Year of any university group, and every year City Year alumni continue their education at state universities, in large numbers. So, it is a thrill and an honor to formalize this partnership with one of the leading state universities and research institutions in the country."

A major component of the give a year Partnership includes one graduate-level scholarship for a corps member, alumnus or staff person affiliated with City Year. Through the partnership, LSU will also offer application fee awards for all City Year corps members, alumni, and staff who apply to any LSU undergraduate or graduate degree program.

"It is fitting that today we are formalizing a partnership with an institution, Louisiana State University, that itself makes a difference in the lives of so many young people that go on to have a tremendous impact right here in Louisiana, and around the world," said Jennifer Eplett Reilly, co-founder of City Year Inc. "City Year and LSU share a commitment to young adults, to service, to education, to the state of Louisiana and to the community of Baton Rouge."

The give a year Partnerships unite colleges and universities with City Year to develop tomorrow's leaders and incorporate service as an integral part of the higher education experience by providing benefits to students as well as the institutions.

"When Michael (Brown) and I and others founded City Year in 1988, it was with the belief that young people can change the world, and with the hope that, one day, the most commonly asked question of a young adult would be, 'where are you going to do your service year?'" said Eplett Reilly. "Since then, more than 14,000 young adults have completed a year of service with City Year, and have made a difference in the lives of 1.3 million children."

Jennifer Eplett Reilly, co-founder of City Year Inc.; Pete November, City Year vice president of recruitment, admissions and alumni affairs; LSU Chancellor Michael Martin; and Brandon Smith, LSU's community affairs liaison, celebrate the official announcement of LSU's give a year Partnership with City Year.
Eddy Perez/LSU University Relations

LSU was founded as a land-grant university in 1860. One of the key tenets of a land-grant institution is service to the community and the nation, which was usually provided through extension and conventional outreach services. The idea of service was reinforced and expanded by the Kellogg Commission's study on the future of land-grant universities in the 1990s, emphasizing that service should go beyond traditional extension and outreach services and become more engaging. This engagement with the community should become a priority – one that will enrich the lives of students while also integrating them into the fabric of the community.

"We most certainly have an engagement mission," said Martin. "To reach beyond the campus, and to allow those beyond the campus to reach into the campus, and form alliances and partnerships that change people's lives.

"We're proud to be the first public institution to establish this relationship. We intend to be a model for sister institutions around the country to build these kind of relationships."

This partnership also reinforces LSU's commitment to service on the heels of the university's sesquicentennial in 2010. It also demonstrates how "engagement" is a pillar of LSU's new flagship agenda, Flagship 2020, which promotes the engagement of faculty, staff and students in the transformation of communities.

"LSU did not arrive to this moment by accident," said Brandon Smith, LSU's community affairs liaison. "Today's announcement is a reflection of our storied commitment to community and our civic responsibility to the people who support it.

"The partnership represents the very best of what a public university should be – a reservoir of research that shares its discoveries with the world; a beacon of learning where young minds are challenged to apply knowledge to create solutions; and, especially today, public universities should be champions of service that remind its campus community that the work we do here is only as good as its value beyond the gates."

Cherie Rankin learned first hand the value of both an LSU education and a year of service with City Year. Rankin's call to service began while a student at LSU. Through her experiences with the LSU Students in Free Enterprise, which strives to create a better world through business, and Study Abroad programs in Spain and Australia, where she learned of the challenges faced by some in remote locations in those countries, she developed a passion to help others and make a positive impact. The LSU alumna has turned that experience into a career as she is now the senior development manager with City Year Louisiana.

"I couldn't be prouder to be standing in front of you today as someone whose life has been significantly shaped by both my college experience as an LSU student and my service as a corps member serving with City Year," said Rankin.

"I wanted to be a part of something bigger, something systemic and something that would have impact over a lifetime. I discovered City Year Louisiana while I was in downtown Baton Rouge. There were huge posters hanging on the walls with people in red jackets serving alongside students with the tag line 'give a year, change the world.'"

Through her year of service as a role model, mentor and tutor, Rankin was able to apply the skills she learned as a student at LSU to gain an experience beyond that went beyond a lecture or classroom.

"Similar to my freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years, my City Year – the year I spent in service giving back to my community – was life-changing. It was tough. It was overwhelming. It was rewarding. It was defining. I am a different person today because of it."

Despite being a national organization headquartered in Boston, City Year has touched the lives of many students right here in Baton Rouge. Through City Year Louisiana, there are currently 33 corps members serving in four East Baton Rouge Parish schools – Glen Oaks Park Elementary, Magnolia Woods Elementary, Progress Elementary and Broadmoor Middle School.

Last year in Baton Rouge, for fourth and fifth graders tutored by City Year corps members, the number of students on-track in literacy doubled and the number of students on-track in math tripled.

"City Year Corps members dedicate 1,700 hours each to the improvement of the education of children in East Baton Rouge Parish," said Christopher Trahan, director of communications and community engagement for the East Baton Rouge Parish System. "The total number of hours City Year Corp members will dedicate this year to this community is 56,100. According to national estimates, the average hourly rate for volunteer services is $20.85 per hour. When you look at what these volunteers provide to our schools and our community, it is $1.17 million, which is a huge total."

In addition to their regular service as mentors and tutors, City Year corps members have engaged in a variety of service projects throughout the community – painting classrooms at Broadmoor Middle School for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and volunteering at St. Vincent de Paul, Baton Rouge Animal Control, Habitat for Humanity, the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank and others.

"I'm not surprised that LSU would step up and be the first public university in the country to partner with City Year in our give a year Partnership," said Rankin. "LSU has always used its extensive resources to solve economic, environmental and social challenges, and their partnership today with City Year further reiterates this university's commitment to service-learning, civic engagement and fostering reciprocal community partnerships."

The partnership was coordinated by the LSU Community University Partnership, with assistance from the Graduate School, Undergraduate Admissions and Student Aid, and Institutional Advancement. For more information on the LSU's give a year Partnership, please visit http://alumni.cityyear.org/Partnerships_LSU. For more information on the LSU Community University Partnership, please email lsucup@lsu.edu