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PRESS RELEASE: Biogen Idec Foundation Pledges Additional Support to Citizen Schools to Advance STEM Education

CITIZEN SCHOOLS CONTACT: Holly Trippett, (617) 695-2300 x1161, Cell: (301)-452-3904, hollytrippett@citizenschools.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BIOGEN IDEC FOUNDATION PLEDGES ADDITIONAL SUPPORT TO CITIZEN SCHOOLS TO ADVANCE STEM EDUCATION

The $1.5 Million Investment Will Allow the Organization to Scale Programming Nationally; Company named “National Innovation Partner”

Boston, MA– January 26, 2015—Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit organization that partners with public middle schools to expand the learning day for underserved students, today announced a new Biogen Idec Foundation grant to support its science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs, and has named the Biogen Idec Foundation its first National Innovation Partner.

Based on a shared commitment to sparking students’ interest in science through hands-on experiences, the Biogen Idec Foundation will help launch the next phase of Citizen Schools’ national STEM strategy to improve and scale the hands-on apprenticeship model for STEM learning in Massachusetts and North Carolina and at the national level.

The $1.5 million, three-year investment will allow Citizen Schools to provide thousands of middle school students with real-world learning opportunities led by volunteer professionals and will also support a STEM curriculum development and a randomized evaluation by leading evaluation firm Abt Associates. The analysis will test whether providing STEM-focused apprenticeships leads to increased STEM interest and achievement in math and science for middle school students.

The Biogen Idec Foundation has supported Citizen Schools since 2008, providing more than $250,000 in grants to support the organization’s STEM apprenticeship programs in Boston, MA and Research Triangle Park, NC.

“The best way to engage students in the STEM subjects is by providing exciting, hands-on learning experiences with experts, like Biogen Idec scientists, who can show them what’s possible beyond the classroom,” said Steven Rothstein, CEO of Citizen Schools. “We are incredibly grateful for The Biogen Idec Foundation’s support as we work to improve educational opportunities for students in low-income communities across the country.”

“The Biogen Idec Foundation and Citizen Schools share an ongoing commitment to spark student’s interests in science through hands-on experiences and exposure to a variety of career pathways,” said Tony Kingsley, chairman of the Biogen Idec Foundation. “We are proud to serve as the first National Innovation Partner and work to improve educational opportunities and long-term success for underserved students.”

As a National Innovation Partner, the Biogen Idec Foundation will extend the innovative work of the Biogen Idec Community Lab from Massachusetts to North Carolina. The combination of Biogen’s unique apprenticeships, commitment to STEM curriculum, and rigorous evaluation is poised to transform Citizen Schools’ STEM programs.

Since 2008, 37 Biogen Idec employees have taught nine apprenticeships in Massachusetts and North Carolina. Biogen Idec-led STEM apprenticeships help students transform into junior scientists at the Community Lab. The students conduct experiments side-by-side with Biogen Idec scientists, using the same state-of-the-art equipment and tools that the scientists utilize to discover and create new medicine. The apprenticeships introduce students to practical applications of their academics and introduce careers they might not have known existed.

Citizen Schools partners with public middle schools nationally to expand the school day for children in underserved communities through academic mentoring and skill-building apprenticeships. The projects foster authentic learning experiences and are taught by volunteer professionals, or Citizen Teachers, who share their expertise and passions in engaging and innovative ways. Citizen Schools’ focus on math and science based apprenticeships are helping to improve math proficiency levels and ensure a more diverse 21st century workforce skilled in the STEM job sectors.

About Citizen Schools
Citizen Schools is a national nonprofit organization that partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities. Citizen Schools mobilizes a team of AmeriCorps educators and volunteer “Citizen Teachers” to teach real-world learning projects and provide academic support in order to help all students discover and achieve their dreams. For more information, please visit http://www.citizenschools.org/.

About The Biogen Idec Foundation
The Biogen Idec Foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of peoples’ lives and contribute to the vitality of the communities in which the company operates, with a special emphasis on innovative ways to promote science literacy and encourage young people to consider science careers. Additional information about the Biogen Idec Foundation can be found at: www.biogenidec.com/foundation

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Teaching Middle Schoolers About the Game of Life

Volunteer Citizen Teacher Seth Conyers teaches "Game of Life" to 8th grade students in Chicago

Volunteer Citizen Teacher Seth Conyers teaches the “Game of Life” to 8th grade students in Chicago

While the 8th grade students Seth Conyers teaches might not be able to explain the finer nuances of economic theory, the students in the “Game of Life” apprenticeship are financial advisors and stockbrokers in the making! Seth, who was raised on the South Side of Chicago, came to Citizen Schools through his work as an Auditor at Northern Trust. While Seth’s day job may be far removed from the middle school classroom, every Thursday last fall he stepped away from his desk and rode his bike to a middle school on the South Side.

Seth taught an “apprenticeship”, which provided students the opportunity to make their own financial decisions through weekly simulations. Throughout the apprenticeship students were able to choose careers, were given salaries and, through trial and error, made their own decisions about consumption, savings, and investments. Along the way students were rewarded for their prudent decision making with foreign currency!

For his work and dedication to students, we recognize Seth as the December Citizen Teacher of the Month!

Meet Seth…

What was your “aha” or “WOW!” moment from the semester?

One of my favorite moments was watching the students debate the relative strengths of the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch. We were discussing taxes and then one of the students asked about tax policy and before I knew it, two of the students were going back and forth about the strength of the veto power versus the power of Congress to pass legislation without the President’s approval.

What surprised you most about the students and teaching experience?

The students curiosity! I think that we could have had a question and answer apprenticeship. I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed the teaching experience.

Why do you think it’s important to provide students with real-world, hands-on opportunities?

I think that the sooner that students are exposed to real-world situations, the more time they have to explore what they want to do when they grow up. I think most of us grow up with very vague notions of career fields like law, medicine, business, architecture without realizing how much opportunity exists to combine things that we are naturally curious about. I think that exposing the students to these things earlier in life allows them to make those connections and find something that they are interested in.

How would you describe the impact that mentoring has on the students and volunteers?

For me, the mentoring experience reaffirmed my commitment to community service. Being in the schools and interacting with the students really made it clear how much our communities need us to get involved. For the students, I hope it helped them see the importance of good decision making. I also hope that it inspired them to take school a bit more seriously and to dream a little bigger.

What advice would you give future volunteers?

Do it. It’s a big commitment, but it’s worth it and the students need us.

 

WalletHub’s Charity Calculator Helps Determine How to Give

claudia headshotEveryone can give, and should. People often debate between giving time or money to an organization but don’t need to.

“There is no trade-off, people can and do give both time and money as they are able, and both are rewarding,” says Claudia Alfaro, Vice President of External Engagement at Citizen Schools.

Claudia contributed her perspective, along with many other nonprofit leaders, as a part of WalletHub’s “Charity Calculator”. Individuals who want to give but are unsure of how much or in what way can use the calculator to determine how to make the biggest impact.

The calculator weighs whether it is more advantageous to donate time or money depending on how much an individual earns annually.  It also presents examples of what one could donate if they worked an extra hour a week, such as the number of meals given to children facing hunger and the number of trees planted to protect wildlife (see infographic below).

Everyone can give in their own way and WalletHub’s calculator makes it even easier to determine what strategy is best for you.

wallethub charity cal

 

How I Helped Middle School Students Make a Difference in Their Community

This blog post was originally published on Cisco’s Corporate Social Responsibility blog.

By Stephen Liem, IT Director, Global Quality and Support Services at Cisco

Stephen and his apprenticeship students at their end-of-semester WOW event, a Citizen Schools tradition where students teach back what they learned to teachers, parents, and community members.

Stephen and his apprenticeship students at their end-of-semester WOW event, a Citizen Schools tradition where students teach back what they learned to teachers, parents, and community members.

There is no limit to what education can bring. It opens up many opportunities that otherwise may not be available.

In the past 10 weeks I‘ve had the privilege of teaching journalism to the middle school students in Joseph George School in East Jan Jose, California. Cisco has been partnering with Citizen Schools, a nonprofit organization, to deliver after school educational programs to low-income schools across the country.

Citizen Schools aims to prevent students from dropping out of high school through its Extended Learning Time (ELT) model, which provides after-school mentoring and support to low-performing middle schools. Volunteer professionals, or “Citizen Teachers,” teach 10-week after-school apprenticeships on topics they are passionate about, from blogging to filmmaking to robotics.

On average the schools Citizen Teachers visit do 300 hours less of after school programming compared to their counterparts. In East San Jose, where the graduation rate is at 79%, providing more meaningful educational programs has certainly helped not just the students themselves but also the community.

As a “Citizen Teacher” with the nonprofit Citizen Schools, Stephen Liem helped sixth graders create their own newspaper

As a “Citizen Teacher” with the nonprofit Citizen Schools, Stephen Liem helped sixth graders create their own newspaper

In my journalism class, students in the sixth grade learned how to interview and collect data, how to write an article well, and how to express and publish their opinions honestly and truthfully. Collectively they decided on the name of the newspaper – the East San Jose News — and the subject of their stories.

The results were both eye opening and touching at the same time.

Erika and Tracy, for example, wrote that while they do not necessarily like to wear a school uniform, nevertheless it is important to wear one, because, “it protects you from gangs!” The story describes the reality they often must face outside of school, a reality that under normal circumstance they should not have to live with. It is a touching statement.

Christopher in the editorial section wrote about the importance of voicing your opinion to make a difference: “School could be cooler if you just speak up and ask for what you want. Sometimes your answer will be ‘no’ or ‘maybe,’ ‘just wait,’ or straight up “yes.’ But you will never find out unless you speak up and make your voice heard.” They may be in sixth grade, but the students absolutely understand that they can contribute to their community and they are ready to make that difference.

I enjoyed every minute I spent with my students. It was an educational process for me, but most important, I believe it was a tremendous educational experience for the students. In our country, where inequality in access to education and income disparity exist, I applaud Cisco and Citizen Schools’ effort to level the playing field for the sake of our future generation. I am glad that through Cisco, I have the opportunity to give back to my community.

Cisco employees are among Citizen Schools’ largest group of Citizen Teachers – 184 employees have taught 89 apprenticeships – and Cisco has provided more than $2 million in cash and product grants to the organization since 2009. Learn more about the partnership between Cisco and Citizen Schools.

Insights from a Beautiful Girl

This is the second post in a series of blog posts featuring Citizen Schools’ program in New Jersey. This installment features a Q&A with a student who took the “Beautiful Girls” apprenticeship this fall.

In light of the article, “Why Striving to be Perfect is Keeping Women out of STEM Jobs,” it has become apparent that we need to close the “confidence gap” in young women in order to close the gender gap in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) industry.

The Beautiful Girls apprenticeship, aimed towards building positive self-esteem in young girls to help them achieve their personal and career goals, is closing this “confidence gap” for thousands of students across the country. We sat down with Beautiful Girl, Georgina (age 11), to ask about her experience in this apprenticeship.

Georgina with her volunteer Citizen Teachers: Meeghan Salcedo from Cognizant, Vanessa Ackon and Nina Barber

Georgina with her volunteer Citizen Teachers: Meeghan Salcedo from Cognizant, Vanessa Ackon and Nina Barber

What are you learning in Beautiful Girls?

I’m learning that it’s not about how you look on the outside, but how you feel on the inside, about personality and self-esteem. We’ve been learning about true friendship and how we need to be a good friend in order to have a friend. We learned how to voice our opinions proudly, and that we can be whatever we want to be!

How have you changed since taking this apprenticeship?

I’m more true to myself and I’m able to express my feelings. I’m not trying to fit in or be like other girls; I’m just trying to be my old, silly self. I’m learning to face my fears. At the beginning of my apprenticeship, I thought no one would like me. I don’t talk to a lot of people, but I learned how to make new friends. In Beautiful Girls, we’re learning S.P.E.A.K. We have to present for the WOW!, so we have to practice proper speaking skills.

Georgina with her role model Teaching Fellow Ms. Evans.

Georgina with her role model AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow, Ms. Evans

I want to be a singer or an author, because I like to sing and write. To be a singer, I have to try a lot of new things, I have to have good grades and succeed.

How can you apply this to your goals in life?

I want to be a singer or an author, because I like to sing and write. To be a singer, I have to try a lot of new things, I have to have good grades and succeed.

What makes you a Beautiful Girl?

My personality and how I feel when I accomplish something. I like to be a hippie, take away the negative energy and enjoy my life!

What has been your favorite moment during Beautiful Girls?

My favorite moment was when I was talking to [volunteer Citizen Teacher] Ms. Vanessa during girl talk. We’re both from Ghana, so we talked a lot about Ghana. I liked that moment because most people in my school aren’t African, so I got to share my culture and connect with someone. I don’t get to do that a lot in school.

Cognizant is a proud National Leadership Partner of Citizen Schools. Thank you Meeghan for your leadership!

Read more about the “Confidence Gap.”

For more information about apprenticeships contact Ashley Drew, Civic Engagement and Operations Associate, at ashleydrew@citizenschools.org.