U of O grad Thomas to participate in AmeriCorps City Year

Release Date: 5/3/2012

Ozarks' loss will be New Hampshire's gain at the end of July. That's when Terri Thomas, a graduating Strategic Communication major, heads to the east coast to spend a year helping kids get ahead.

Thomas is participating in City Year New Hampshire. City Year is an education-focused nonprofit organization that works with high-need public schools across the country to provide full-time targeted student interventions. A part of AmeriCorps, City Year members support students by focusing on attendance, behavior, and course performance (the ABCs) through in-class tutoring, mentoring, and after school programs that keep kids in school and on track to graduate.

Terri Thomas

Terri Thomas, a senior Strategic Communication major, is participating in City Year New Hampshire. City Year is an education-focused nonprofit organization that works with high-need public schools across the country.

"I discovered the City Year program last January at the C.H.A.N.G.E. black leadership conference in College Station, Texas," said Thomas. "They held a career fair and I was able to talk to the representative there from City Year. It seemed very interesting, so I applied and asked for the east coast. I guess I should've asked for Florida if I wanted to spend time on the beach! But I am actually very happy to be joining the City Year team in Manchester, New Hampshire."

Thomas says she was led to apply to City Year because the program allows her to take a "gap year" between graduation and graduate school and volunteer. "My brother did something like this when he graduated college, but he went abroad to do it," Thomas said. "Originally I was looking at the Peace Corps or something like that, but then this came along and I thought, well, this is perfect; it's in the States, so my mother won't worry herself sick, and I love working with kids!"

In addition to helping tutor and mentor school children to encourage them to improve academically, Thomas says she hopes to encourage them to think beyond school. "A lot of the younger kids just don't see their future," she said, "and I want be there to help them see it and move toward it even though they're not there yet. That they don't have to follow in the footsteps of whatever negative role models may be around them. That they can do whatever they want to. That's one of my main goals."

Interestingly, Thomas's inspiration to work with youth came from being a dormitory resident assistant at Ozarks. "Working with college freshmen as their dorm RA is kind of the same concept as working with kids," she said. "Because they're at a transition age. I mean, we're all big kids, but as a result of helping new college students, I was motivated to seek an opportunity to help others who are transitioning in various ways and encourage them through that."

In addition to mentoring four days a week, Thomas will do regular volunteer work in the community. "To receive the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, a corps member must complete 1,700 hours of service," she said. "There are some specific things they want you to do, but for a lot of it, it's up to you to find places to volunteer and to complete your hours."

However, Fridays are different. "Every Friday is a self enrichment day," she said. "That's when we do whatever we need to to make sure our future is lined up for after we finish our City Year. It gives you time to study for the GRE and apply to grad schools, things like that. That way you can do your work but still be able to focus on what happens next."

Thomas is weighing her options for what to do once she's complete her year in New Hampshire. "I am really interested in higher education administration," she said. "So I've been thinking a lot about that. But I'm also deeply interested in anthropology and would like to see what that field has to offer. Studying anthropology gives you a whole new perspective on society. It will mean graduate school in either case." She pauses to laugh. "On the other hand, when I was 13 years old I wanted to be a wedding planner, so if all else fails maybe I'll get my license for event planning and do that instead!"