A CITY YEAR by Suzanne Goldsmith


On the Streets and in the Neighborhoods with Twelve Young Community Service Volunteers
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 An inspiring yet disheartening account of an eclectic team of ``urban peace corps'' workers who spent nine months in service to the city of Boston. City Year is a Boston-based nonprofit group that recruits young people to put in a year of community service before they move on to shape their adult lives. At first privately funded, the organization has since received a multimillion-dollar federal grant to serve as a pilot program for the ``season of service'' called for by President Clinton. City Year's workers represent Boston's diverse population: black, Hispanic, white, Oriental; college students and high-school dropouts; stable middle-class kids and those who have ping-ponged among foster families. Goldsmith (director of a Washington, D.C., community service project) joined a City Year team in 1990 and, here, reports on her experience honestly and intimately. Her team members were so mismatched that they called themselves ``the Misfits''--among them numbered a beautiful black woman who was a West Point dropout; men who'd had brushes with the law; an Oriental woman disoriented by cultural shock; and a former peace-worker. The group returned to Boston to begin its service: restoring a community garden and playground; rebuilding a greenhouse at a mental hospital; assisting in elementary-school classrooms; renovating homeless housing; and organizing a community cleanup. Two months into the work, one member was shot dead outside his home--no motive and no killer were ever found. Others dropped out or couldn't maintain the strict discipline the program demanded, but some of those who finished went on to make their lives in service--although, Goldsmith says, the program in many ways failed people who joined as a last resort or with few resources behind them. An optimistic but realistic assessment of a program that serves as model for a national-service ideal but that may not survive the next round of Congressional budget cuts. (Photos)

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1993
ISBN: 1-56584-093-3
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: New Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1993