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Destination Graduation


Monday, May 19

5:30 p.m. Cocktails
6:30 p.m. Dinner and Program

Discovery World
500 N Harbor Drive | Milwaukee

Individual Ticket Price: $150
Sponsorship Opportunities Available

Cecelia Gore, Executive Director, Brewers Community Foundation
John Kordsmeier, President, Northwestern Mutual Foundation

Event co-chairs Cecelia Gore and John Kordsmeier, and City Year Milwaukee, invite you to join us for City Year Takes You Back to School – Destination Graduation. This annual dinner is a one-of-a-kind event, infused with energy from City Year’s 70+ AmeriCorps members. We will celebrate the impact corps members have on the lives of students right here in Milwaukee, how students get back on track, as well as the deep partnerships we have formed in the community.








CLICK HERE for sponsorship information

Contact Paula Phillips at 414-882-2016 or pphillips@cityyear.org with any questions about table sponsorships or individual tickets. Register online here. Please RSVP by Monday, May 5. Space is limited.

CeceliaGorepictureCecelia Gore is a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She attended Messmer High School and earned a B.S. and MBA from Alverno College. Gore spent the first 23 years of her career working in a variety of positions at Wisconsin Gas, former utility for the State of Wisconsin. The bulk of her time was focused on Community/External Affairs. In 2001 Gore joined the highly regarded jane Bradley Pettit Foundation and served as Program Director from 2001-2009. A number of impactful initiatives were developed and funded during her tenure including the Life Impact Scholarship which focused comprehensive resources and support for student parents at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee of which hundreds of students and their families have benefited. During the winter of 2009, Gore led the rebranding efforts of Brewers Community Foundation and created several new programs to strengthen the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club’s charitable arm.

In her current role as Executive Director of Brewers Community Foundation, Gore leads the team’s philanthropic efforts. The mission states that Brewers Community Foundation harnesses the pride, passion and commitment of Brewers fans, players and other supporters to positively impact the lives of children and their families in Greater Milwaukee and Wisconsin. Funding efforts strategically extend financial support to nonprofits that provide quality programming in the areas of health, education, recreation and basic needs, with a particular focus on low income and disadvantaged youth and their families.

In addition, she is an active member of the community and serves several Milwaukee based nonprofit organizations by serving on the board. Said organizations include: Alverno College- Trustee, Marcus Center for the Performing Arts and the Milwaukee Public Library Foundation. She is a founding member of the African American Women’s Fund which has quietly grown a meaningful fund held by the Women’sFund/Greater Milwaukee Foundation. She currently resides in Milwaukee with her husband, Randy Bryant.

John Kordsmeier

John Kordsmeier is vice president of the Strategic Philanthropy and Community Relations Department, a position he has held since November 1, 2011. In this role, he also serves as president of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation. The department supports Northwestern Mutual’s ongoing focus on developing and implementing giving and volunteerism strategies that create community impact and underscore the company’s commitment to its employees and the Field. Between 2009 and February 2012, Kordsmeier served as Northwestern Mutual’s vice president of disability income. Prior to that he was vice president of enterprise solutions and also held leadership positions in the company’s New Business and Underwriting Standards Departments. He has been an executive officer since 2004. Kordsmeier joined Northwestern Mutual in 1980 as an underwriter in the New Business Department, and served in various roles within New Business, Human Resources, and Policyowner Services prior to being promoted to vice president of Underwriting Standards in January, 2003.

In the community, he serves as a member of the operations team for Milwaukee Succeeds, the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s education committee, the executive council for both Milwaukee’s Building Neighborhood Capacity Program and the Community Development Funders Alliance. Previously, he served as president of the Board of Trustees for the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, trustee for Pius XI High School, first vice president and chairman of the board for Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and was a director for the Catholic Charities Foundation for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Kordsmeier also served as a trustee for Cardinal Stritch University.

Kordsmeier earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Dallas, Irving, Texas, in 1976. He also received a master’s degree in management from Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1985.

Making an Impact: Whole School Report Card Conferencing


Written by Aaron Mays, City Year Milwaukee Corps Member serving on the United Way of Greater Milwaukee Team at James Madison Academic Campus

A few times throughout the year, the entire City Year Milwaukee corps descends on a single partner school and we go over every single student’s report card with them in one day. In February we spent a Friday at Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts.

One student I connected with, Janae*, refused to come out in the hall with me. After some cajoling and nearly making a phone call home, Janae followed me out into the hall and we sat down against some lockers to go over her grades. Her grades were far from the worst I’ve seen, but we both knew she could do better. I especially noticed that her attendance, one of the indicators City Year trains us to look for, was generally fairly poor. Interestingly enough, the number of absences was significantly different from class to class. So I decided to make an observation:

“Janae, it looks to me like you’re cutting class.” Bingo. She hung her head and nodded. The rest of our conversation was all about how she was going to do better and she finished by hugging me, signing her name on our contract, and promising not to skip class anymore.

At the end of the day I saw Janae in the hall, skipping class, so I called out. “Janae! Do you remember the conversation we had just a few hours ago?” I was expecting to get blown off, but she stopped running down the hall and looked at me.

“Come over here.” She did.

“I’m sorry.”

“Do you remember what you promised?”

“Of course, I just, just… I don’t know. Look, starting Monday never again, I swear on my life!”

“I believe you.”

At the time I didn’t realize it, but our conversations had a huge impact on Janae. I even got a note delivered from her and she explained how she had thought about our conversation and that me believing in her made her want to change and that she was going to class now.

Seeing my students’ scores improve dramatically at my own school and interactions like the one I had with Janae let me know what we do is so worth it.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the student.

Over the past few months, Anna has taken control of her education


Written by: City Year Corps Member Stephanie Lakritz, serving at Dr. George Washington Carver Academy of Math & Science. Her partner teacher is Ms. Cwirla, a Teach For America teacher.

One of the benefits of collaborating in Milwaukee’s schools is seeing the powerful influence teamwork can have on the scholars. This year marks the foundation of a cultural transformation at MPS’ Carver Academy. Teaming up with Teach For America and Schools that Can Milwaukee, City Year has had the privilege of working with scholars who are at risk of falling off track and dropping out of school. The collaboration between these organizations at Carver has led to more opportunities for one-on-one conversations between staff and scholars, the development of a behavior choice-management system, and an emphasis on goal setting for our scholars. The effects of this individualized attention can been seen throughout the school – especially with Anna.

Over the past several years, Anna has had notoriously low attendance. Like many of her peers, Anna has been the victim of frequent, if not chronic, bullying. As a result, she had very little motivation to attend school and this poor attendance led to negative impacts on Anna academic performance. At the beginning of the year, Anna had not attended an entire full week of school. She sat in the back of the classroom, apathetic to learning. Also, Anna struggled with following directions, and often displayed defiant behavior accompanied with frequent expletives.

Over the past few months, however, Anna has taken control of her education.

Now Anna has been at school for three consecutive weeks and counting. She has moved her desk to the front of the classroom to not miss any instruction and she is actively engaging in class throughout the day. Along with Anna’s improved attendance came a significant increase in her MAP test scores. Anna was predicted to grow two points on her MAP math test; instead, her scores increased by a whopping 13 points! Anna’s behavior has also seen a dramatic renovation. She responds positively to the rewards of the choice management system and has shown great progress in demonstrating respect to adults and her peers.

Anna is just one example of the positive outcomes resulting from the collaboration at Carver Academy. As the transformation continues, we hope to touch many more lives of our scholars and watch as the number of at-risk learners diminishes.

50 Acts of Leadership: It’s the Little Things That Impress Me the Most


Written by Rachel Fuchs, City Year Milwaukee Corps Member
Rockwell Automation Team, Rogers Street Academy

“What is a leader?” I ask. I look out and see my students; six sets of eyes looking back at me. Their eyes are filled with different emotions. Some look confused, others are pensive, and some are just blank. These students have no idea what a leader is, or what one does, or how to become one. Even though their eyes are filled with questions, I already know what my students’ capabilities. I already know that my students are leaders.

The students looking back at me are all 6th graders, part of my 50 Acts of Leadership group. As part of the “Behavior” component of City Year’s “ABC” model, 50 Acts of Leadership is designed to help students develop into leaders and positive peer role models. Throughout this process, students not only learn about how to positively influence those around them, they are also learning about themselves and what characteristics make them who they are.

Even though I’ve worked with adolescents before in a professional capacity, I was not prepared for what was in store for me when it came to 50 Acts of Leadership. I thought I had it in the bag: recent college graduate with a degree in Sociology and minor in Psychology, internship at a school already under my belt, and serving as the Behavior Coordinator for my Rockwell Automation Team. This is why I decided to challenge myself and pick students for my 50 Acts of Leadership group who may not have been the easiest choice. I picked six pre-teen boys. Six boys with six very different personalities. But while each of the group members has a different personality and a different past, they all come together twice a week with me and learn the same skills that will help each one of them grow.

Even though the road so far has been a bit rocky, mainly with “boys being boys,” over the past couple of weeks the boys have been displaying their growing leadership skills without even realizing it. For example, if they understand something in class that their neighbor doesn’t, they will help by explaining it to them. And the other day two of the boys stayed in with the teacher to help set up surprise birthday treats a mother had left for her daughter.

But it’s the little things that impress me the most. Being kind to their classmates. Not cursing during class. Doing independent work quietly. These are the things that I see the group members doing more and more. They are slowly becoming leaders whether or not they know it. The skills they are developing will not only help them now, but will continue to help them develop in the future. As proud of them as I am now, I know they will continue to make me more proud in the months to come. Because I know it now like I knew it then: they’re all leaders.

“I just didn’t think I’d get through to her and I did.”

Early on in the 2012-2013 school year, Ren received the list of students she’d be working with and one name in particular stuck out to her: Netta.*


Ren had been working in Netta’s classroom since the beginning of the year, but for some reason Netta had not warmed up to Ren and was sometimes dismissive. Ren still made every attempt to connect with Netta, but she knew that she could not force a relationship.

When Ren’s City Year program manager led a team reflection activity that required her to put a sticker on the back of her nametag with the name of a student who she wanted to get to know better, she quickly picked Netta.

One day outside at recess, Ren approached Netta and her friends to check in for the day. Netta got upset and tried to encourage everyone to move to a different part of the playground, away from Ren. Her friends didn’t listen, so Netta reached out and grabbed Ren’s nametag out of frustration. That’s when she noticed her name and asked why Ren had her name on the nametag.

“I have your name on my nametag because I want to work with you and get to know you. Each corps member picked one student they wanted to get closer to and I picked you.”

Netta’s eyes immediately lit up and Ren could tell that she had finally made the connection she had been attempting to make over the past couple of months. After that, Netta started participating more in class and started sharing more with Ren. Paired with Ren’s City Year tutoring strategies, Netta’s test scores reflected this positive change in behavior. Her test scores in both English and math increased dramatically, particularly in math which saw a 100% increase from the beginning of the year. Without this individualized tutoring and support from Ren, this improvement might not have been possible.


In addition to Netta’s trust, Ren gained new perspective. The nametag became a daily reminder that everybody is a work in progress and that things take time.

“I just didn’t think I’d get through to her and I did.”

Did you arrive here through our Enews appeal? Click here if you’re interested in making a donation to City Year Milwaukee

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*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the student.

Why SeQuoia Serves

sequoiaMy name is SeQuoia and I proudly serve on the Brewers Community Foundation Team at Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts.

These past two months have been life changing. It is so amazing to watch the future generation: so energetic, curious, and especially determined to discover who they are and what the future has in store for them. They ask me questions about how I was as a kid in middle school, what high school and what college was like. Although it makes me feel incredibly old, I am so excited to share with them the story of my life, which I tend to refer to as my testimony. Throughout my life things did not always come easy and I experienced many changes: having a newborn sister during my senior year of high school and moving out of state to attend college. Nevertheless, these changes made me into a stronger person.

In the words of Maya Angelou, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” This quote reminds me of the positive reinforcement and inspiration that City Year corps members bring to Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts. As stated in the City Year service model, “as tutors, mentors and role models, corps members are uniquely able to help students and schools succeed through: academic support, attendance and positive behavior encouragement, and also community and school improvements.” Before City Year, I knew that I would dedicate a year working within Milwaukee Public Schools, but now that I serve I realize just how powerful of an impact and influence that I have on the students.

For example, this letter from a student I’ve been working with really made me pause:

Dear Ms. SeQuoia, I just want to let you know that you’re doing great with City Year. You’re really doing great helping kids stay on track. Particularly me, you’ve helped me by breaking the material down and helping me to control my anger. You’re really nice and calm. City Year is lucky to have you! 

Although we don’t often receive friendly little reminders, this letter in particular reminded me (and continues to remind me) why I serve. I serve because I was born and raised in Milwaukee, and I am aware of many of the challenges that these students face. My experiences allow me to connect with the students and to be a powerful role model.

Written by SeQuoia, City Year Milwaukee Corps Member