$2 million grant places 58 Student Success Coaches in local schools to offer kids extra support

Success Coaches with City Year San Antonio are placed in eight local public schools

SAN ANTONIO – U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro and Greg Casar recently announced their offices have secured $2,065,575 in AmeriCorps funding for the nonprofit City Year, a nationwide organization that focuses on bridging gaps in education.

The San Antonio chapter is working with eight local public schools to give their students extra assistance by placing Student Success Coaches on the campuses.

“Our Success Coaches are in school before the first bell rings. As they enter the building, (they’re) that warm, friendly face there for (students) to see. Then they are directly integrated into teachers’ classrooms, where they provide individual support, reinforcing the teacher’s classroom expectations,” said Jasmine Glasper.

Glasper was a Success Coach 10 years ago and now works on the City Year San Antonio staff as the managing director of impact.

“I oversee all of our programming. So I work directly with our schools and with my staff to really implement the city program at our schools,” she said.

The Success Coaches are all members of AmeriCorps, a federal service agency placing over 200,000 members with nonprofits across the country.

“Our corps members are age 18-26. They go through about three weeks of training before school starts, where we really dig into -- ‘What does it mean to work with students? What does it mean to be part of a community?’” Glasper said.

The coaches are expected to provide academic and youth development mentoring to improve literacy, math, and socio-emotional skills. Members also provide extended day and school climate activities.

After the City Year and school district training, the Student Success Coaching program is a 10-month commitment, but many coaches return for more school years.

“We want to ideally be working with the same group of students as they transition from third grade to ninth grade. We want to help be a part of that child’s life as they’re progressing through and add that additional support,” Glasper said.

Glasper explained that though students may not see the same group of Success Coaches every year, there is an established trust.

The coaches all wear red City Year jackets on campus to identify themselves to students.

“So the idea behind the uniform is that we’re building that sacred trust. The students may not know that core member on the first day, but they’re like, ‘Yo, City Year!’ and then they’ll hug them. It’s because we’ve built the relationships over the years with the kids so that, even though the faces aren’t the same, the feeling is the same. The support is the same,” Glasper said.

Sofia Farias, a 24-year-old AmeriCorps graduate, wore the red jacket for the first time last year.

“Working with the kids on tutoring. I was the ELA coordinator, so I was focused on English. So I would do English tutoring in the classroom. Outside the classroom, we would also do social-emotional learning,” Farias said.

Farias said her ability to relate to the “at-risk” students made her more successful.

“I kind of was an at-risk kid in some aspects, like as far as dealing with mental health and being in a system that doesn’t necessarily always understand what that means,” she said.

That allowed her to pick up on things others couldn’t.

“I’m like, ‘Oh, they’re acting a little different today, so we need to talk,’” Farias said. “It’s attendance, as well. ‘Why aren’t you on time?’ Like, ‘What’s going on? How can I support you?’” Farias said.

She said sometimes she could tell students were hungry and would make sure they got breakfast when they got to school.

Farias is grateful for the new wave of federal funding to support 58 student coaches this coming school year and all the resources they need to succeed.

“It funds everything from corps member stipends to the staff that supports them, to us being able to train them and get them ready. So this money’s vital in terms of, like, us being able to continue our program,” Glasper said.

She said City Year’s funding is comprised of private donations, school year funds, and the AmeriCorps funding.

They hope continued funding will allow students in even more schools to see those trusted red jackets and know they have support.

If you’re 18 to 26 years old and interested in becoming a Student Success Coach and AmeriCorps member, you can apply online on the City Year website.

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.