The members of the Harvard community could not have been more profoundly misinformed in your article as to where Judith Kidd "led" City Year (news story, Oct. 1).
As alumni of Harvard College and the Law School, and co-founders of City Year, we write to set the record straight.
For reasons we do not understand, the article sensationalized and seriously distorted information. First, the article stated that City Year "did not pay its bills" in 1995. In fact, City Year paid every single one of its bills and always has. Regrettably, some payments were late--as much as two months late--because the federal government, which shut down three times that fall, was six months late in funding City Year. Like most non-profits, we have no endowment. In addition, contrary to what the article implied, City Year documented 100 percent of all its initially "questioned" expenses, and the federal government neither "forgave" nor "forced" repayments; rather, City Year returned a very small portion of funds that were provided by the Bush administration but were ultimately unused by City Year graduates.
From the article's headline, tone and front-page placement, it would appear that its purpose was to cast aspersions on Judith Kidd's remarkable achievements at City Year. In reality, all facts are to the contrary.
Above all else, Judith Kidd's most important quality is that she believes in the power of young people to act on their idealism. When we started City Year in 1988 as recent Harvard graduates, we received some polite rejection letters for funding our first program--until one day, Judith Kidd called to say that the Bank of Boston would be City Year's first team sponsor for $25,000. On that day, City Year was born. For the next five years, Judith has served as mentor, adviser and constant companion to us and dozens of City Year corps members and staff.
In 1992, with support from the Bush administration, City Year was inundated with requests to join the corps and start programs in other cities. We needed expertise and experience--and Judith was top on our list. Judith left a prestigious position at Boston Foundation, put on a City Year uniform every day and worked in a dilapidated warehouse headquarters to fight for more youth service opportunities for hundreds of young people.
Here's a powerful "before" and "after" comparison. City Year before Judith Kidd: Annual revenues of $2.47 million; 100 corps members serving in only one city, Boston--and worked out of an inaccessible warehouse that froze in winter, sweltered in summer and leaked year round. City Year after Judith Kidd: Annual revenues of $14.45 million; 605 corps members serving in six cities--and a new central headquarters for service and idealism in Boston's South End. Where did Judith Kidd lead City Year? To more than 600 percent growth in impact, service and idealism--and nowhere else!
Judith was an institution builder at City Year and much more than a fundraiser--she was a friend, mentor and role model, especially for young women. We are disturbed, however, by criticism of Judith for being a "fundraiser"--as if raising funds is somehow beneath or irrelevant to those who are serious about social change. If you are interested in changing the world, you must shift values, attitudes and resources. Judith did all three.
The members of the Harvard community should know that City Year might never have been started, would not be engaging over 700 young people today for a year of community service or have served as a model for Americorps' 25,000 participants, without the courage, commitment, vision and enormous hard work of Judith Kidd. She is, in all respects, a co-founder and builder of the organization.
Among the thousands of Harvard students on campus today may be many who desire to act on their idealism and start a new organization for social change. We hope so. If you are one of them, we hope that you find Judith Kidd--or someone as rare and wonderful as Judith--to believe in you, encourage you and dive in with you to help make your dreams real. We miss working with Judith day to day. The Harvard community is so very fortunate to have her. --Michael H. Brown '83-'84, Alan A. Khazei '83, City Year co-founders
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