Michael Brown & City Year are Transforming Education for High-Poverty Communities

Michael Brown, Co-Founder & CEO of City Year

By: Keith Krach — Chairman, DocuSign IMPACT Foundation

At our Momentum 2015 Conference, I had the honor of announcing the formation of the DocuSign IMPACT Foundation and its mission: “To transform people’s lives by transforming noble causes.” It has become my favorite tradition at Momentum to highlight some of these causes, such as New Story, Team Rubicon, and TechBridge Girls. Last year, I had the privilege of hosting a fireside chat with a great transformational leader, Tim Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics.

Raising the Special Olympics torch at DocuSign Momentum

This year at Momentum, I have the distinct honor of hosting a fireside chat with another transformational leader, Michael Brown, the co-founder and CEO of City Year. Michael and his college roommate, Alan Khazei, started City Year in 1988 with a simple idea: to bring together idealistic young people from all backgrounds to spend a year in full-time service to address major societal issues. Three decades later, City Year’s 3,000 corps members work in more than 325 schools, reaching over 200,000 students and transforming the education landscape in the 28 cities they serve. A 2015 study showed that schools who partnered with City Year were 2 to 3 times more likely to improve on math and English assessments, compared to schools without City Year.

Michael and Alan’s idea did more than just establish a successful nonprofit. It also served as an inspiration for AmeriCorps, a federal initiative launched by President Bill Clinton (who also signed the ESign Act in 2000), who enlisted Michael’s help to establish the program. Today, AmeriCorps has enabled more than one million Americans to serve their communities and acts as an umbrella organization for thousands of programs doing good across the country.

Bill Clinton with a City Year staff member

City Year is an outstanding model of a public-private partnership, supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service — the federal agency that runs AmeriCorps — along with local school districts and private philanthropy.

In talking to Michael, his passion for this work is readily apparent, along with his unwavering belief in the power of young Americans to solve social challenges. His entrepreneurial spirit has helped City Year become an industry disruptor, challenging the status quo. He has led City Year to think big, but also to focus on what works — City Year’s approach in schools is evidence-based and data-driven, delivering services to the schools and students who need it most.

Michael with City Year staff members

For these reasons and many more, we were thrilled to have Michael join our DocuSign IMPACT Foundation board. He embodies our ideals of compassion, dedication, and humility. He is the first to say that City Year’s success is because of the organization’s tremendous leadership team and the remarkable idealistic spirit of the young people who serve.

I had the honor of attending City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley’s annual gala at Levi’s Stadium — an event that DocuSign IMPACT Foundation has been proud to support over the past few years. City Year honored our good friend, John W. Thompson, Chairman of the Board of Microsoft, for his outstanding contributions to the community. This event is an inspiring celebration of City Year’s talented staff members and the lives and communities that are transformed throughout their year of service.

John W. Thompson, Chairman of the Board of Microsoft, honored at 2016 City Year gala

A highlight of the evening was hearing the stories of the young people who serve as City Year corps members, working full-time as tutors, mentors and role models in high-need schools. I learned so much as they shared their challenges and successes, along with their personal inspiration for giving back. I was amazed by the stories of resilience I heard, and it inspired me to hear what these City Year members and their students were able to achieve together.

Team DocuSign at City Year’s 2016 gala on National IMPACT Day

At DocuSign, philanthropy has become a way of life, and we rally together as a team to support causes like City Year. Michael has been quoted as saying, “You don’t work at City Year, you work on City Year.” This is just the kind of mentality that we need to ensure a brighter future for all, and it underscores why DocuSign is proud to support the change-making work of City Year.

I cannot wait to share the stage with Michael at Momentum 2018 in San Francisco this June. I know you will be inspired by his message and the IMPACT that City Year is making on the world.

Watch this video to learn more about City Year AmeriCorps members and their work in schools.