City Year Los Angeles, an education-based nonprofit that places AmeriCorps members in systemically under-resourced Los Angeles schools, announced Thursday that Giselle Fernandez and Mattie McFadden-Lawson have been selected as the organization’s new board co-chairs.
The announcement comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified structural, racial and economic inequities in Los Angeles – inequities City Year has been addressing for over a decade, but that are now more pronounced than ever as communities of color face staggering job loss rates, higher rates of COVID-19 infection and deaths, and disproportionate learning loss.
The two women, who previously served as members of the board, will lead the board to increase City Year’s impact as the organization’s work takes on new urgency. With studies indicating that learning loss from school closures could leave some students up to a year behind on academic gains, City Year’s tutoring and mentorship approach offers a lifeline to students. A recent study found that students who received support from City Year demonstrated improved social, emotional and academic outcomes, and that moving up just one level in social-emotional skills is equivalent to gaining an entire school year of growth in math or English.
“In this moment, we are called to rise up and stand up to inequity, to stand up to systemic racism and to ensure that communities of color can reach their full potential,” said Fernandez, who sits on the board of trustees of the Grammy Museum and is an executive producer, writer, and host of the Emmy Award-winning weekly series “L.A. Stories.” “There is an economic imperative to ensure that every child receives a quality education. City Year AmeriCorps members have been a vital resource for students and teachers in communities of color, ensuring that thousands of students can graduate from high school on time and on track to college or career success.”
Mattie McFadden-Lawson, who was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts and serves on the board of The Black Economic Alliance (BEA), the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County, Grammy Museum, and many other organizations, said: “The pandemic has brought devastating inequalities to the forefront: students of color and those from low-income communities face troubling disparities in distance learning. City Year, alongside its school partners, offers a solution by empowering students to succeed and forging an equal playing field where all students can achieve their goals. I look forward to leading the organization’s board alongside Giselle to ensure every student has equitable access to a quality education and the tools they need to succeed in and outside of the classroom.”
Fernandez and McFadden-Lawson assumed their new position this week, following the transition of co-founder and long-time City Year Los Angeles Chair, Andrew Hauptman.
“City Year has played such a critical role across the Los Angeles community for more than a decade. Its impact on students’ lives is undeniable and its culture of service is inspirational and needed now more than ever,” Hauptman said. “I am beyond thrilled to see such a formidable duo in Giselle and Mattie step into this role and meet this moment to create a more equitable and bright future for all of Los Angeles’ students.”
Prior to school closures, City Year Los Angeles members served students in more than 25 school sites in Los Angeles Unified and Inglewood School Districts with their Whole School Whole Child approach. As schools closed their doors and shifted to distance learning following the COVID-19 pandemic, members served 2,905 students in virtual classrooms, providing 329 hours of in-class support.
“As Giselle and Mattie lead us into this next phase of our work, I want to thank Andrew for his steadfast support and his strong and passionate leadership,” said Mary Jane Stevenson, executive director of City Year Los Angeles. “Since co-founding City Year Los Angeles, Andrew has been a visionary leader and invaluable partner in building opportunity and equity in our communities and schools. He leaves an indelible mark on service in Los Angeles.”
Fernandez and McFadden-Lawson were approved unanimously by the City Year Los Angeles Board of Directors to serve as co-chairs.
The Los Angeles Board includes business, entertainment, and community leaders.