AmeriCorps program provides mentors, tutors in five KCPS schools

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Extra mentoring help has come to students in Kansas City Public Schools. An AmeriCorps program is sending mentors and tutors into five urban schools.

AmeriCorps members who make up City Year Kansas City could be seen on Friday wearing bright red jackets.

Pha Thao was one of 16 who took part in the pilot program last year. There are now 50 corps members in its first full year.

“I believe in this cause because I’m an older sister. I have younger brothers and sisters who have struggled in school. I had to be their tutor; I had to be their own City Year before I knew what City Year was,” she said.

The Corps members will be spread across five schools in Kansas City. They will work alongside teachers to provide extra support, mentoring, and tutoring for students. Kansas City Chiefs President Mark Donovan also serves as the board chair.

“What I love about city year is that it works. It’s proven. It has a positive impact on the kids. It has a positive impact on our teachers and it has a positive impact on our community,” he said.

Jeff Shafer, the City Year Kansas City Development Director, graduated from KCPS and was working in Chicago when he heard the program was being launched in his hometown. After 10 years away, that was enough to bring Shafer back.

“They’re there before the first morning bell all the way to the last after school program. They’re providing support in attendance, behavior, course performance, whole class support, small group individualized support and positive climate events for the entire population,” he said of the corps members.

Fifty members took a pledge to dedicate a year of service to make a difference in the lives of Kansas City students.

Thao recited the words for second time, once as a corps member now as a team leader.

“It makes me feel very powerful. I don’t usually wear a lot of red but this is stands out. You can see me in a crowd no matter how short I am,” she said.

At just under five feet, Thao may be small but she makes a big impact.

There will be eight to 10 AmeriCorps members in each school partnering with math and English teachers.

The five schools include Central Middle, Northeast Middle, Central Academy of Excellence, and Northeast High School in the Kansas City District and the charter, Kauffman School.