City Year was founded in Boston in 1988 by two Harvard Law School roommates, Alan Khazei and Michael Brown, who felt strongly that young people in service could be a powerful resource for addressing America’s most pressing issues. They built City Year with the conviction that one person can make a difference; and since its inception, City Year has promoted the vision of service as a common expectation – and a real opportunity – for citizens all around the world.
In 2001 at a conference on civil society in Cape Town, President Bill Clinton brought a delegation of City Year Service Leaders and staff from Boston, to meet with Former President Nelson Mandela. Mandela was eager to implement a programme in South Africa that afforded young people the opportunity to serve their communities. He loved the idea of City Year and after further conversations, City Year’s first international site was launched with 110 Service Leaders in Johannesburg.