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HBCU graduate shares why she serves with City Year

If you speak with an alum of an historically Black college or university (HBCU) about their experience, you’ll quickly learn that service to their community is one of the hallmarks of HBCU campus culture.

HBCU graduate shares why she serves with City Year

So, it’s no surprise that many HBCU graduates apply to serve in schools with City Year as AmeriCorps members after they receive their bachelor’s degrees. This year alone, 49 HBCUs are represented among the currently serving corps, coming from about half of the nation’s 100 HBCUs.

In a series of interviews, we talked with currently serving corps members who are HBCU graduates about how their education at historically Black institutions have informed their decision to serve with City Year as student success coaches.

Learn more from Katerra Mitchel, a graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans, the nation’s only Black and Catholic university, who is currently serving with City Year Washington, D.C.:

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Katerra Mitchell, and I graduated from Xavier University in May 2023 with a BS in Biology. I am currently serving as a City Year AmeriCorps member with City Year Washington, DC.

How did your HBCU experience prepare you for service?

My HBCU’s mission was to promote a more just and humane society. So, after academic excellence, service was the second most important part of Xavier University campus culture. I really value community service and my university put me in a position to find this program and be passionate while serving an under-resourced community.

What are some of the personal and professional benefits of serving City Year?

Depending on your future career goals, this is a challenging job that puts you in a position to grow. Whether that be through time management, budgeting, long hours, resilience, cultural backgrounds, and more. In terms of personal and professional development, you’ll gain more than you can imagine during your service year.

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 Learn more about what to expect when you join City Year as a student success coach.

What did your students know about HBCUs before they met you?

Some students had heard of Howard University and North Carolina A&T. But many students had never heard of HBCUs. So, I take pride in educating students about them.

I make a conscious effort to talk about the one-of-a-kind cultural and academic experience offered at HBCUs because I know I may be one of the few HBCU graduates whom they have the chance to connect with.

What advice would you give for an HBCU undergrad or alum considering City Year?

The students we serve often live in communities that have been impacted by systemic inequities, including access to the resources they need. And due to the impact of the pandemic, these issues have been exacerbated. Our students need us now more than ever.

So, if you want to make a difference—big or small—join City Year and become the change you want to see in the world. It is challenging work, but certainly well worth the effort!

Background: WHAT IS AN H B C U?

Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are institutions of higher education that primarily serve Black American and other African diasporic populations. Most were formed during the Reconstruction era—a period in history that immediately followed the U.S. Civil War—as most colleges and universities at that time barred Black students from admission.

Today, there are more than 100 HBCUs that continue to provide a one-of-a-kind cultural experience alongside rigorous academic and professional training to thousands of students across the country.

Discover what awaits you as a student success coach with City Year. Click here to learn more!

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