Spending a Year in the ‘City’

By Lauren Dominique ’16

Allegheny graduate Austin Cosgrove ’15 thought he was destined for medical school following Commencement in May. Instead, he finds himself helping to mentor high school students in Boston.

Cosgrove, a biochemistry major and Global Health Studies minor, started his unexpected journey in August with a service group called City Year.

Austin Cosgrove '15.
Austin Cosgrove ’15.

“Up until midway through junior year, my plan was to go to medical school,” says Cosgrove, “but after a few fantastic global health courses and an amazing research internship with Dr. (Becky) Dawson, my interest in medicine shifted to that of public health. I chose to do City Year because I thought it would be a wonderful transition into further public health schooling and career choices.”

City Year, a non-profit program sponsored by AmeriCorps, has become a popular destination for Allegheny students after graduation.

City Year is a compensated service program geared toward the betterment of children’s experience in high-need and inner-city schools throughout the United States. City Year employees, all between 18 and 24 years old, create a “near-peer relationship” that allows for them “to serve as positive role models who have the ability to encourage students to stay on the right track toward their high school graduation,” says Todd Marsh, a  City Year regional recruitment manager.

In spending 11 months with a team stationed in one of 27 cities nationwide, City Year representatives work with third- through ninth-grade students, focusing on “one-on-one and group tutoring, behavioral coaching, and positive school culture programing,” all with the objective of improving the school and community as a whole, says Marsh.

Allegheny College has quickly become a steady source of City Year representatives. For colleges of fewer than 5,000 students, Allegheny ranks No. 4 in the number of graduates who go on to serve at City Year.  For the 2015-16 academic year, 12 Allegheny alumni are involved with City Year, nine of whom are graduates of the Bicentennial Class of 2015.

Cosgrove attributes much of his success in this program to his time at Allegheny: “There’s a reason Allegheny is in the top tier for sending students into service organizations following graduation. At City Year, we act as a support system in the school for the teachers, faculty, and, most importantly, the students. In providing students in urban school settings the extra individual attention and support they need, we work to end the nation’s dropout crisis and prepare our students to be college and career ready. My time at Allegheny has instilled within me a determined, diligent work ethic to keep me motivated throughout this upcoming year, a strong education for which I am grateful, and a duty to give back and serve.”

When asked if City Year is an experience he would recommend to current Allegheny students, Cosgrove responded enthusiastically: “I would certainly encourage any and all interested Allegheny students to apply to the program! Moving into Boston, a brand new city for me, and living on a stipend to serve 11 months in an urban public school setting isn’t exactly my ‘comfort zone,’ but I had enough confidence in myself to take on this challenge because of my Allegheny experience.”

Allegheny students learn about careers, graduate school options and service opportunities through the Allegheny Gateway. Go to: sites.allegheny.edu/gateway/