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PR- 260-09
June 9, 2009


Will Lead NYC Service Initiative to Channel Volunteers to Address Impacts of Current Economic Downturn and Make NYC Easiest City in the Country to Volunteer

Calls on New Yorkers to Volunteer to be Middle School Mentors

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today named Diahann Billings-Burford as the nation’s first-ever municipal Chief Service Officer and charged her with leading NYC Service – the City’s initiative to promote a new era of service and volunteerism in New York City.  With more than a decade of experience working in the nonprofit sector, Billings-Burford will oversee implementation of the near 40 initiatives included in NYC Service. No other major city has such a position, although two states – California and New York – have cabinet level posts dedicated to promoting service. The Mayor announced the appointment at the High School for Public Service: Heroes of Tomorrow in Brooklyn, where he was joined by First Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris and Sway Calloway of MTV News to honor school students who have given back to their communities. The Mayor and Billings-Buford called on New Yorkers to volunteer for the Middle School Mentors program, a key initiative of NYC Service that aims to connect mentors to at-risk students in the City’s highest-need middle schools.

“The goal of NYC Service is to let loose an army of volunteers who will help tackle our biggest challenges – which have only become more pressing during this national recession,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The NYC Service program is the first of its kind in the nation, and our Chief Service Officer is the first job of its kind in any city in the nation. We believe we’ve found the perfect person for this unique job – Diahann Billings-Burford – and I look forward to working with her to achieve our goals.”

“We set lofty goals for the NYC Service program, pledging that New York City would lead the nation in meeting the President’s call for a new era of service in America,” said First Deputy Mayor Harris. “We are thrilled that the program has begun to take off and capture the attention of New Yorkers that want to give back. I have every confidence that Diahann Billings-Burford is the right person to ensure NYC Service meets its ambitious objectives.”

 “I’m deeply honored to accept this appointment,” said Chief Service Officer Diahann Billings-Burford. “New York City is the first city to strategically harness the power of its volunteers to solve its most pressing challenges, and I am excited to lead the charge. Having been a middle school teacher myself, I couldn’t agree more that encouraging New Yorkers to give back by mentoring at-risk students at that critical time in their development will invariably change the lives of those students for the better.”

NYC Service meets the Mayor’s State of the City pledge for New York City to lead the way in answering President Obama’s nationwide call to service. The NYC Service program has three main goals: channel the power of volunteers to address the impacts of the current economic downturn, make New York City the easiest city in America in which to serve, and ensure every young person in New York City is taught about civic engagement and has an opportunity to serve. NYC Service aims to set a new standard for how cities can tap the power of their citizens to tackle their most pressing challenges. NYC Service builds on the Bloomberg Administration’s record of promoting volunteerism and public-private partnerships. In 2002, the Mayor's Volunteer Center was reinvigorated under the leadership of Nazli Parvizi, now Commissioner of the Community Affairs Unit. The Chief Service Officer will build upon these successes and implement the ambitious agenda set forth in the NYC Service Report.

At the announcement, the Mayor and Billings-Burford asked New Yorkers to volunteer for Middle School Mentors, an NYC Service initiative that establishes a mentoring program for at-risk students in the City’s highest-need middle schools. The middle school years are a critical time for youth, and mentors are a proven intervention to help students remain connected to the classroom. The Department of Education has formed partnerships with a broad range of mentorship organizations, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City, Mentoring USA, America’s Promise, iMentor and the “I Have A Dream” Foundation to train volunteers and connect them to students in need. Those interested in learning more about becoming a Middle School Mentor can visit or call 311 for more information.

Middle School Mentors is the first in a series of NYC Service initiatives that will be highlighted to spur public participation.  NYC Service is seeking 2,000 new mentors to work in 51 of the City’s highest-need middle schools. Schools participating in Middle School Mentors will employee one of three models for the program:

  • Connecting mentors to Sixth Grade Students to provide one-on-one support as students transition into Middle School.
  • Providing mentors to students whose academic performance has placed them at the bottom third of their schools to address chronic absenteeism, low academic performance and socio-behavioral issues.
  • Creating mentor advisory groups where mentors will meet with clusters of students at their schools to discuss and address issues specifically pertaining to adolescent development.

Prior to her appointment, Diahann Billings-Burford served as Deputy Executive Director of External Affairs for City Year New York. City Year is a leading volunteer service organization that has worked to engage young people in service – creating and implementing innovative solutions for the most pressing issues facing New York City’s public school children. Prior to joining City Year, she served as the Director of External Affairs (NY) for Achievement First, a charter school management organization. Billings-Burford spent most of her career with Prep for Prep, a New York based leadership development organization where she served in various capacities, including Director of College Guidance and Director of Leadership Development Opportunities. She has also worked as a middle school history teacher, curriculum developer, and a corporate attorney. A graduate of Yale University, Billings-Burford also holds a Juris Doctorate from Columbia University School of Law. She was born and raised in Brooklyn and currently lives there with her husband and her two children.

Without generous donations from the following individuals or organizations, the full scope of NYC Service would not be possible: David Rockefeller, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, and The Lizzie and Jonathan M. Tisch Foundation.


Stu Loeser / Marc La Vorgna   (212) 788-2958

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