Alumni Spotlight: Vicki Cohen

As part of a new series, throughout the year the CYNY Communications Team will be bringing you stories of CY Alumni and examples of their Leadership After City Year (LACY).  Our first installment features Vicki Cohen, a 2010 graduate of City Year New York who worked on a team at PS 48 in the South Bronx.  In this post she explains to us in her own words how her City Year prepared her for the new challenges she faces as she continues her life in public service abroad.

As a part of my 5-month service teaching English in Chile, I had the privilege of working at the Chilean Ministry of Education’s Winter “English Camps”.  Students had a two-week winter vacation from school in the middle of July. 

Vicki served in the '09-'10 corps at City Year new York.

Winter Camps were an exciting change of pace for volunteers because it was an opportunity to work with accelerated and highly motivated students from all over the region.  Because I am currently living and working in Coquimbo, the town in which my mother was born and raised, I worked with high school students from schools throughout Coquimbo at a high school in San Juan, a nearby town.    

What drew me to the Camps program was the freedom we would be granted as instructors outside of the traditional classroom setting.  Without having to worry about classroom management and discipline we were, in fact, able to practice English in more unconventional and creative ways.  Each volunteer had a group of around 10 to 15 students, and each group had a superhero name (my idea, ala City Year, thank you very much).  My group was Batman and they created a call and response cheer with choreography that went as follows:

We fight evil

We drive a cool car

We save the world


(da na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na BATMAN!)

Vicki and her team perform a chant inspired by her time at City Year.

We were required to teach only a bit of grammar formally, so our biggest responsibility for the week was to speak only English to our students. Highlights of the week included a trip to the local movie theater to see the move “Eclipse” and a talent show including several moving interpretations of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and an evocative acoustic performance of “Telephone”.  Over the course of the week, my fellow instructors and I all become very attached to our students and spent the last hour of our last day signing each others’ Winter Camps t-shirts and taking thousands of pictures with every permutation and combination of students.  When we were finally kicked out of the school, we had to drag the students out with us, as some were in tears at the thought of leaving.  I was shocked to see students so genuinely excited about learning English and so grateful for our work! I hope I haven’t been too spoiled, as now I must face the rest of the students in my own school that may not be so enthralled with the idea of learning English.  Though, based on my past experiences, I know I’m ready for that challenge too.     


Are you a CYNY alumni with a story to share? E-mail us at to share!  Your story may be the next one to make the Alumni Spotlight.