The Case Foundation and City Year love going back to school. It’s the time of year when students and teachers both feel like the slate has been wiped clean; it’s the time for dreaming big dreams and setting audacious goals. It’s the time when young minds–like fresh, crisp pages in new composition notebooks–are waiting to be filled with knowledge.

But dreaming a dream is not enough. A skill must be cultivated; a gift must be nurtured. The reality is that traditional schoolhouse models that provide one teacher for every 20 to 30 students doesn’t allow for allow for much additional individual support. Every day in schools in high-poverty areas across the country, upwards of 56 percent of students require help to supplement what they learned in class. Their teachers don’t usually have the bandwidth to support them.

The consequences of this gap are astounding. Each year, 1.2 million students—mostly from high-poverty urban communities—drop out before graduating from high school. In DC, only 54% of students graduate high school within 4 years.

A long-term partnership in DC

In 2000, the Case Foundation and City Year DC partnered for the first time with the shared belief that young people could make a marked impact in communities across Washington, DC. In those early years, City Year’s mission was focused on community development in addition to education.

In 2007, City Year decided to focus all of its efforts on supporting its corps members’ work in schools, and it became laser-focused on addressing the dropout crisis. The Case Foundation supported the new set of goals as City Year targeted its resources toward one of the most critical issues in DC.

At City Year, 17 to 24 year old AmeriCorps volunteers now serve for one year in one of sixteen schools in high-poverty areas as tutors, mentors, and role models to students. Corps members are present in school all day every day, and they focus on students’ attendance, behavior, and performance. They are contributing to more frequent student attendance, higher literacy rates, and better student behavior.

For students in these schools, having a City Year corps member as a mentor can mean the difference between an idea scratched on the inside of a notebook and forgotten, and a dream that is nurtured and leads them to college, to a good job, or to graduate to the next grade.

Proud of the Millennials who serve

The Case Foundation and City Year are pleased to see so many Millennials—often described as the “me” generation—so passionate about service. Last year, more than 850 17 to 24 year-olds applied to secure one of 156 spots to serve with City Year DC. DC is representative of larger trends: between 2009 and 2011, applications to AmeriCorps programs nationwide increased 62 percent.

We think that this is undoubtedly a generation committed to changing the world. This is a generation that meets critical challenges like those that faced by the education sector with optimism and clarity.

For a child, there can be no greater feeling than opening a notebook on the first day of school and feeling like any dream is possible. And to take a note from the millennial generation, why shouldn’t it be?