When Alexis Grant becomes a senator, she is going to save the world.
“My first priority as a senator is to do something about our education system. If I could fix it here, maybe I can go around the world and fix it,” said Grant.
But Grant won’t be announcing a bid for the Senate anytime soon: She’s 19.
Instead, the politician-in-training is taking her fight to Washington, D.C., as a member of City Year — a volunteer organization that works with city schools and community groups to improve the lives of District children. She’s one of three Marylanders in the program this year. She joins Megan Reymann, 18, of Ellicott City and Addie Valoris, 17, of Silver Spring.
The three, along with about 50 other 17-to-24-year-olds, officially kicked off their year of service Friday at a ceremony near the Capitol. City Year, an AmeriCorps member, is a nationwide organization with sites in 15 U.S. cities and more than 1,000 volunteers.
Locally, the group’s focus is working with children, which they do through various projects that center on three main issues: illiteracy, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS. In addition, corps members participate in a “Young Heroes” mentoring program that teaches middle school students leadership skills.
Grant, a recent graduate of High Point High School in College Park, said her upbringing in the sometimes tough and underfunded Prince George’s County school system gave her the skills and insight to work with at-risk students in the District.
“My school had those problems and I can connect with the kids in D.C. I know for a fact that they have the same problems,” said Grant.
“Instead of sitting back and saying, ‘We have this problem,’ inspire them with a voice to know they can do something about it,” she said. If they complain they don’t have textbooks, she said she’ll say, “If you want them bad enough, get up and fight for them.”
For Reymann, a straight-A student, City Year was about bucking the trend.
In Howard County, “it’s assumed you’ll graduate and then go straight to college,” Reymann said. “I think I wanted to prove to myself that there were other options.”
Valoris, who went through most of school with an undiscovered learning disability, said she needed a break from school.
But all three plan to attend college after City Year. City Year participants receive a $5,000 scholarship at the end of the program.
While the money isn’t enough to finance a four-year education, “it’s often enough to spur people to get in the door,” according to Chris Murphy, D.C. City Year’s executive director.
City Year also offers seminars about paying for college to corps members.
“We’re really trying to open their eyes that college is an option,” said Murphy.
Grant attended Prince George’s Community College for one semester last year, but left to save money to continue her education.
She found City Year while looking on the Internet for potential college scholarships.
“A girl who’s really poor and comes from a low-income family, you don’t get a lot of opportunities,” she said.
But she doesn’t want sympathy. She just wants your ear.
“People may think, ‘Oh she’s just one little girl.’ I may be a little girl, but I have a big voice and I’m going to make sure everyone hears it.” -30- CNS-9