JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Duval County's lowest performing schools are getting a big boost for the 2012-13 school year.

It's through a program with proven success in improving student performance and raising their grades.

The program, City Year, involves a group of college graduates who travel across the country and spend the entire year making sure students don't drop out.

In the City Year team at Andrew Jackson High School, there are graduates from Harvard, Duke and Johns Hopkins universities -- young adults who have put their lives on hold for a year to help students in Duval County's lowest performing schools.

"For us, what works is the near-peer relationships -- 18 to 24-year-olds," City Year team member Jay Thompson said. "They're able to connect with students in a different way. It's giving additional resources to the school."

Jacksonville is the 24th city in the United States to implement the City Year program, which is up at running at Andrew Jackson High School and Matthew Gilbert Middle School.

Team members are tutoring struggling students in reading and math. They are organizing programs, and they perform hours of community service and develop relationships with those needing help.

"It gives them someone who they connect with all the time," Andrew Jackson Principal Iranetta Wright said. "I've already noticed a particular energy they bring, the group we have. All of them are college graduates."

Being a team member is a full-time job. Any time students are in school, so is City Year, carefully intervening, promoting positive behavior and, most importantly, scholastic growth.

"It's having a different set of hands," Wright said. "Tutors always on hand -- that's the more exciting part about it."

"The big focus is on English, core classes and math, where there's research that shows students struggle in those areas and may drop out," Thompson said.

City Year is funded by a $1 million grant.