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While studying at HBS, Jennifer Eplett Reilly (MBA 1990) was also working on the opening chapter of a remarkable social enterprise success story.

“Our idea was to call upon diverse young people to give a year of service addressing the most pressing challenges of our communities and country,” explains Reilly, who cofounded City Year in Boston in 1988 with Harvard friends Michael Brown (HLS 1988), Alan Khazei (HLS 1987), and Neil Silverston (HBS 1987). At the quarter-century mark, the nonprofit today engages young adults in community-building activities in 26 US locations and has affiliates in South Africa and the UK.

A City Year, Inc. trustee and cochair of its international committee, Reilly says the organization’s current efforts are “laser-focused on helping teachers and public schools address the high-school dropout crisis.”

This year, more than 3,000 City Year corps members will serve in more than 280 under-resourced schools across the US, mentoring, tutoring, and organizing before- and after-school activities. “For struggling students in high-poverty neighborhoods,” she stresses, “[City Year corps members] play a game-changing role.”

Reilly settled in Louisiana after HBS and championed City Year’s cause from a distance while starting a family with husband Sean Reilly (HLS 1989) and contributing her entrepreneurial skills to education initiatives and public-private partnerships.

“In my work, I’ve aimed to listen to my heart and focus my HBS-trained brain to create positive change,” says Reilly, who did both in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Rallying City Year contacts from across the country, she founded City Year Louisiana to help with critical relief and recovery efforts just 100 days after the storm hit. “For many in that corps,” she notes, “serving the thousands of displaced children and families across south Louisiana was a defining generational moment.”

(Published September 2015)

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Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 1990, Section D

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