and three times more likely to be unemployed. It’s
been estimated that people who do not finish school
cost Americans about $1.6 trillion in increased social
service costs and lost earnings and taxes over the
course of their lifetimes.
To turn things around, City Year AmeriCorps
members work full-time in high-poverty urban schools
around the country, providing high-impact student,
classroom, and school-wide support to help students
stay in school and on track to graduate from high
I became so committed to City Year’s mission that,
when the organization’s board chair of 20 years decided to step down in 2013, I agreed to take his place.
In spite of the huge responsibility that was involved, it
was an easy decision. I find the impact and difference
we make with students truly exciting, and working
with the passionate and dedicated staff at City Year
inspires me every day. My work with City Year also
reminds me of the people who helped me in my personal and professional development. In fact, I’ve tried
to share some of the lessons I’ve learned during my
career with my City Year colleagues, and have incorporated them into my role as board chair. There are two
lessons in particular that I find myself always coming
The first lesson is maintaining perspective. Most
of us can get so focused on a task, project, or even
our individual roles that we lose sight of the bigger
picture. It’s important to step back once in a while and
re-orient oneself to the overall goal or situation. This
has always helped me maintain a more objective view
and to more easily find solutions, even when I thought
there was no way out of a problem.
The second is being open to new opportunities.
One should always be aware of what is possible and
never feel locked into the current status quo. If you’re
ever feeling stuck, keep searching for other avenues
that can lead you to where you are trying to go. And
always remember that maintaining your perspective is
often the key to seeing new opportunities.
Three years into my role as board chair, City
Year San Jose/Silicon Valley has achieved some pretty
amazing results. We’ve gone from 53 AmeriCorps
members working in five partner schools to 134
members serving 13 partner schools, an increase
of over 50 percent. More impressively, the number
of students we’ve reached has grown from 1,200
to 8,000—a whopping 600 percent increase. We’re
making differences in other ways, too. In 2014, we
started an annual Women Investing in Education
event, which has brought together 400 women leaders for an evening of rich discussion and networking
on the topic of education reform and what City Year
can do to help.
It has been richly satisfying to work with the City
Year team and to see students graduating from high
school and being better prepared to succeed in life.
I’d like to think that we are leaving the same imprint
on our students that my mother left on me - and I
can’t help but think that she would be happy about
Sharon Matthews is the President and CEO of eLynx, a
portfolio company of American Capital (NASDAQ: ACAS).