Alumni Spotlight - George Deveney '97
George Deveney is a 1997 graduate of Lexington Christian Academy. After graduating from LCA, George went on to Eastern University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing. George worked in the corporate world but after the September 11th attacks, he decided he wanted to do something different. George says, “I looked at City Year as a real avenue for doing important work that could make a difference. And I realized that’s what I really wanted to do.” This marked the beginning of his career with City Year, which ultimately led to his receiving the Comcast NBCUniversal Leadership Award, City Year’s most prestigious alumni recognition. From London, England to Sacramento, California, George is helping to create spaces and opportunities for young people to be supported in their education and thrive in their communities.
What brought you to LCA and what was your experience like?
I was coming off of a very challenging part of my life— my mom passed away and I moved here from Florida to live with my aunt and uncle in Dorchester. They had LCA on their mind as a place for me to go but initially I was not as interested. I had come from Christian schools and I wanted to go to a public school. They showed me a news article about Mo Christmas (’92) and that convinced me to check it out. The first day I met 3 people that changed my life—James Hahn (’97), Renee VanderBrug (’97), and Josh McPherson (’78). Renee in particular made me feel so welcome and she turned into one of my closest friends. I’ll always think back to that time at the pool and meeting all three of those people and thinking, this place feels really good. One of the unique things about LCA is that it’s a school that’s not just middle school; you’re able to build relationships with people that are older than you and you meet people that are truly going to make an impression on your life.
I met Reggie Henley (’69) in 8th grade and he became a major influence in my life for the next 5 years. The commute made playing sports difficult because most practices, especially basketball are in the evenings. Reg Henley drove me home every night after practice back to Dorchester. This was really important in shaping my time at LCA. I’d also say that Mrs. V’Soske was one of the first teachers after my mother that really sparked a love for education in me in 8th grade.
During my time at LCA, I wouldn’t say I was a class clown but I wouldn’t say I was top of the class. I got a lot of detentions but I made a conscience shift in my behavior and attitude when they told me I couldn’t run for class president because of this. My junior year I ran and was elected for student body president. It was a real thrill for me and I felt like it was something my mother would have been proud of but what was most important to me was that I made a conscience change and started taking responsibility.
How did you start with City Year?
Well it actually started with LCA. One of the things that characterized my time at LCA is the commute. I came from Dorchester. The folks that came on the T to Alewife together were another family. This was also the first place I got exposed to City Year. We would see the people with the red jackets and we didn’t really know what to make of them. We always said we were going to join to get the free Timberland boots and then quit the next day. Ultimately, I wouldn’t have really known about City Year if it hadn’t have been for commuting from Dorchester to LCA.
I started with City Year in Philadelphia. I think I had been resisting being a teacher and going into education. My mother was a teacher and my aunt always said I would make a good teacher but I wanted to make money. After September 11th happened, I looked at City Year as a real avenue for doing important work that could make a difference. And I realized that’s what I really wanted to do. I spent a year volunteering for City Year in North Philadelphia in two high schools. The team I worked on was diverse in terms of education and socio-economic background, all of us coming together because we cared about those kids who might fall between the cracks. It was such a positive experience for me that I wanted to present it to other young people. An opportunity came up to join the staff in Philadelphia in the Recruitment Department and go around to other colleges and high schools and talk about City Year. It was really rewarding and I eventually moved up to Recruitment Director and then from there an opportunity to come back to the Headquarters in Boston and work as the National Recruitment Director. I was responsible for the strategy and recruitment for all the City Year sites across the country. In my current role, I help communities launch City Year programs and I’ve had the privilege of working with local leaders in London, Denver, Sacramento, Orlando, Jacksonville and Tulsa.
What are some challenges to your job?
The challenge is figuring out how to prevent kids from dropping out of school. One of the best things about City Year is the razor sharp focus on what we do best— making sure to identify the students early who could be potential dropouts. City Year works in partnership with school staff to regularly monitor student performance on the early warning indicators — attendance, behavior and course performance, the ABC’s — which research shows can identify students at risk of dropping out as early as sixth grade. This continuous process of data-informed intervention allows City Year to customize the types and intensity of supports corps members provide to meet students’ specific needs, academically and socio-emotionally. We deliver the right supports to the right students at the right time.
Over a million kids drop out of school each year which seems like too big of a number to even tackle but when you step back and look at it, 50% of them come from only 12% of schools so it’s a really concentrated number of schools that are driving these stats. If we can really focus in on those schools we can really move the needle on the dropout rate in this country. And these schools are mainly in large urban areas which is where City Year is and is committed to being.
What motivates you on a daily basis?
It’s nice when you have a mission and you believe in that mission. When I get to meet with CEOs and Mayors, they’re looking at the bottom line but when I get to meet with principals and school districts and they realize how they can plan their year differently with ten extra caring adults in the building that are going to be there before the school day started, greeting students at the door, clapping and cheering for them, making phone calls home that are positive, supporting students in classrooms – just being an extra layer of human capital. Seeing principals get excited about this support motivates me. These are the people that are going to directly benefit because it’s their kids. We’re not trying to replace teachers, we’re trying to support them and allow them do their jobs.
Less than 1% of City Year’s Alumni are given the prestigious Comcast NBCUniversal Leadership Award. What were your thoughts when you heard you had won?
When I think about those who have gone before me and won this award, it is a pretty fantastic list! It was an honor to not only be nominated but to win was amazing. I look forward to who’s going to win next year and being proud of them and their work.