Erica Hamilton has followed an unorthodox career path to get to her current position as executive director of City Year New York, a nonprofit that places volunteers in public schools to help support students and prevent them from dropping out.
After college Hamilton worked for several nonprofits before landing at Goldman Sachs, where she worked in the human capital management department. She has also earned an MBA, worked for Citigroup and most recently served as the chief program officer for iMentor. Now at City Year, she oversees a staff of over 40 employees and almost 300 full-time volunteers and works with New York City schools to confront head-on the daunting dropout rate of high-risk students. “What drew me to City Year was the work the organization does in terms of how it works with students in underresourced, high needs schools,” Hamilton said. “It’s a holistic approach, [focusing on] academic support, behavioral support, attendance support. It’s more than looking at a child in one aspect.”
She also relishes working with the enthusiastic volunteers—about 80 percent are recent college graduates—who give a year of their lives to help a struggling school.
“It’s so energizing to work with these people,” Hamilton said. “In the role as executive director, the number one thing you do on a daily basis is a constant fixation on the strategy. [There’s] a lot of time spent out and about, talking to schools.”
City Year New York currently has contracts with the Department of Education to work in 22 schools. Hamilton divides her time between focusing on how to work most effectively now and planning for the future to expand the organization’s reach.
While she is always trying to stay one step ahead and focus on City Year’s long-term mission, sometimes the rewards of the job are visceral and immediate.
“A lot of times I will end up talking to people about our programs before they know what my role is. I am often moved to tears, especially when talking to parents, students, teachers,” Hamilton said. “That’s the most rewarding part, being in the schools and seeing the impact of the work we do firsthand.”