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City Year program preps Yolanda Cobblah ’17 for career in public service

Yolanda Cobblah

Yolanda Cobblah

The experiences Yolanda Cobblah ’17 gained as part of the City Year program have been both life-changing and eye-opening. 

So far, Cobblah has served for two years for City Year, an education-based nonprofit organization focused on bridging the graduation and attendance gap in the United States.  She started as a first-year AmeriCorps member, then was promoted to senior AmeriCorps member. Now, she is employed as an impact manager who supervises a team of first-year AmeriCorps members and one senior member. 

“I joined because I have always wanted to do national service,” Cobblah said. “I initially planned on joining the Peace Corps after graduation, and this was a U.S. equivalent. Serving with City Year just reassured me of my career goals and what I wanted to do with my future. I want to be a change agent for those less fortunate, especially in education policy. City Year allows me to contribute my small acts of service to a greater cause so that it will ripple into making a bigger impact.”

Cobblah was first placed on a team of nine at Istrouma High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she worked on beautification projects, conducted small group interventions with a focus list of 12 students, and mentored in afterschool and extracurricular activities. She was specifically paired with a math partner teacher who taught both 9th grade algebra and 10th grade geometry. 

In her second year, Cobblah was a team leader at Capitol Middle School.

“My second year was even more challenging than my first, and yet I believe that the trials and tribulations I went through were necessary for my personal and professional growth,” Cobblah said. “I am a different person from when I graduated in 2017, and I am very thankful for that. 

“The one thing I took away from my experience in Baton Rouge was the love I received from my students,” Cobblah added. “They taught me what genuine love and compassion looks like, and I cannot wait to see my ‘babies’ graduate from high school this upcoming May. I am so proud of how far they have come, and I am so honored to still be a part of their lives even though I do not live in Louisiana anymore.”

Cobblah plans to attend graduate school and has applied to Johns Hopkins University. She hopes to continue along her path in public service by earning certification in nonprofit management and a master’s degree in public management. Ultimately, she hopes to start her own nonprofit organization. 

“My senior thesis paper at Randolph focused on the academic, social, and emotional advancement of international students in higher education,” Cobblah said. “I hope to expand this idea into creating a space for international students and immigrant families to grow academically, personally, and professionally. My goal is to create an environment where Dreamers have as many resources as possible accessible to them: SAT/ACT training, resume writing, language courses (for all ages), FAFSA filing sessions, filing taxes, applying for citizenship, legal representation, and more.”

Cobblah credited her Randolph education and the sociology degree she received for helping her better understand the world around her.

Being surrounded by such a diverse and accepting student body allowed me to hear about so many different experiences, exciting stories and struggles,” Cobblah said. “Academically, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to internship opportunities, alternative spring break service days, and every single sociology and psychology class, which gave me a well-rounded view of the world and how our society works. Every experience and moment at Randolph strengthened me to be critical, analytical, empathetic, and passionate about fighting for all types of people and the social issues that surrounded us. I would not trade my education and the family I gained at Randolph for anything else.”

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