Women@PROS Inspire Houston Girls to Dream Big

When Kim Watson and Emily Zinsitz learned about Citizen Schools through their “Women@PROS” group they wanted to get involved and teach an apprenticeship, but they weren’t sure what to teach. Their roles at PROS differ from one another so they wanted to find a subject they could teach together. Kim is a Manager of Professional Services and deals more with math, while Emily is a Content Strategist who works with product documentation.

Beautiful Girls was a natural fit. “We understand that there is a need for encouraging girls at this age,” said Kim. “We wanted to be encouraging adults for the students to show them that they can go into ours fields of math and science.” In Beautiful Girls, girls develop the beliefs and confidence they need to be successful in school and beyond.

Emily and Kim’s dedication and passion to positively influence girls at Jackson Middle School in Houston, Texas is obvious. We are pleased to recognize them as the November Citizen Teachers of the Month!

Meet Emily and Kim…

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

Emily: It’s not so much these students can’t imagine what careers are like, but there is a big difference between being aware that women have these roles and actually seeing women who do. I also think it’s important for people outside of their immediate family and friends to take an interest in them and engage with them. I want to show these girls how one can make it from middle school girl to career women.

Kim: In middle school it is important to see people you can relate to. No one else in my family had graduated from college when I was in middle school. I think it’s important to share my experience with the girls and show them that they can achieve their goals and go to college too.

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AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow Spotlight: Ahmad Jitan, NC

Meet Ahmad Jitan, a second year AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow serving at Lowe’s Grove Middle School in Durham, NC…

Why did you choose to serve with Citizen Schools?

Ahmad 2After graduating from Duke, I wasn’t sure what path I wanted to take, but I knew that I wanted to serve the Durham, NC community in a meaningful way. As I thought about what exactly led me up to the point of graduating from college, I remembered all of the people in my life who supported me to get to where I was. My “success” wasn’t just an individual achievement but the result of the collective effort of supportive and caring people. I wanted to have the opportunity to be a part of that collective effort for other children in public schools.

Growing up in the public school system in the South, I remember how my schools struggled to support the needs of all of its students, especially students of color and those from a lower socioeconomic status. I also remember many big-hearted individuals— family, educators, and community members— who collectively fought to ensure myself and others got the education they deserved. I wanted to join that fight and to help bring others into it as well.

What ​excites you about being an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow and/or working with students?

Every student has the desire to learn and to grow and to succeed. All they need is the right environment to do so. I love that I have the opportunity to help create an environment for young people to make so many new discoveries about themselves and the world. Inside and outside of the classroom, middle school students face great challenges. Given the right support and guidance, those challenges lead to dramatic growth. As cliché as it is, I am growing alongside the students. As a teacher, what excites me the most is the opportunity I have to listen to my students. If I listen closely enough, they tell me everything I need to know to help us achieve our goals.

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Bay Area Googler Fuels Student Success By Recruiting Others to Teach

Jeff Breau helps recruit California Googlers like the one pictured here to volunteer to teach Bay Area middle school students

Jeff Breau helps recruit Bay Area Googlers, like the one pictured here, to volunteer to teach middle school students

Jeff Breau, a Googler in San Francisco, has been a personal supporter of Citizen Schools since 2011. Over the years as a volunteer Citizen Teacher he taught three apprenticeships to middle school students in the Bay Area including Rockin’ Robots, Train Your Brain, and Reading the News. Jeff was recently promoted and found himself with a busy travel schedule, making it hard to commit to a semester of teaching. Asking himself “How much am I able to do?” he switched gears and began inspiring colleagues to invest their time volunteering with Citizen Schools. His encouragement worked. Since last spring, Jeff has helped our California team recruit 32 volunteers!

Citizen Schools: Who or what inspired you when you were young?

Jeff Breau: An experiment my dad did with my grade school class comes to mind. He was a professor of microbiology and brought experiments into my class from time to time.  I specifically remember getting excited about one where he brought petri dishes into the class.  We all rubbed our toes in our dish and waited for the cultures to grow, and then looked at the different patterns they all made. That really awakened me to science and biology, the hidden micro world!

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

JB: Kids aren’t always aware of what adults are doing, and what they could be doing when they get older. Citizen Schools is a way to expose them to more opportunities, creating a better chance for them to find what fuels them to succeed.

CS: What is one of your “aha” or “WOW!” moments from teaching?

JB: I taught an apprenticeship called “Reading the News.” I wanted to hook kids with topics that interested them, like music and sports, and transition them to bigger news stories on international and political levels. My “aha” moment happened when the students organically began debating Dennis Rodman’s trip to North Korea. They had a conversation about whether Rodman should have visited, if his visit was beneficial or not, and if his trip went against the wishes of the President. Making the leap from a basketball star to the political climate of North Korea with seventh and eighth graders made it apparent that these students were connecting to news stories at a deeper level.

CS: What was it that inspired your work as an organizer to engage more Google Citizen Teachers?

JB:  My new role requires me to travel a good deal and becoming an organizer seemed to be a natural segue. My experience managing teams and organizing events paired with support from Google and Faith [Lin], the Senior Manager of Civic Engagement in CA, made it possible for me to expand my impact. If I recruited 10 Citizen Teachers who impacted 25 students each, I am still doing something good.

CS: How does Google support your involvement with Citizen Schools?

JB: As a Citizen Teacher I had a ton of support all the way up through senior the VP and Executive levels of the company from Christina [Christina Wire, Director Google Helpouts] and Claire [Claire Hughes Johnson, Vice President Google X] who share my excitement for Citizen Schools’ mission. It wasn’t just the luck of also having a great manager, although I did have that, but they recognize that 1-2 hours of outwork time was beneficial and it had only been encouraged. They were all truly supportive of me giving time to the community. Additionally, Google has a tool to log volunteer hours and they give money to your organization based on the hours you work. [Google also supports Citizen Schools as a National Leadership Partner, providing $3.25 million since 2011.]

CS: How did your time as a Citizen Teacher affect your professional development or growth at Google?

JB: Obvious and tangible benefits were that I was able to work on leadership skills and work with different people across Google. Increasing the number of people I knew and worked closely with was great. I found that teaching made my normal job easier to come back to, after teaching I felt rejuvenated and recharged returning to my desk.

Each week I was exposed to so many different viewpoints from kids and I spent time trying to get each of them excited.  Making a subject interesting is a great skill to have, one that was shaped by the work I did with Citizen Schools. Bringing it back to Google, I was just applying it to a different audience.


PRESS RELEASE: Citizen Schools to Expand STEM Footprint Nationally with US2020

CONTACT: Holly Trippett, Citizen Schools, (617) 695-2300 x1161 or (301)-452-3904,



The National Organization Looks to Increase STEM Programming as it Enters its 20th Anniversary

BOSTON, MA – October 7, 2014 – Today Citizen Schools, a leading national education nonprofit, announced that it will be expanding its science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programming by retaining US2020 as a key part of its efforts to provide real-world STEM learning to middle schools in low-income communities.

Citizen Schools partners with public middle schools to dramatically expand the learning day, mobilizing a team of AmeriCorps Teaching Fellows and volunteers who provide academic support and teach hands-on “apprenticeships” that help students make connections between what they are learning now and a future career pathway.

US2020 is an initiative that has been incubated by Citizen Schools since it was announced by President Obama at the 2013 White House Science Fair. Inspired by a White House call to generate large-scale solutions to the nation’s educational challenges in the STEM fields, US2020’s goal is to match 1 million STEM mentors with students by the year 2020.

As Citizen Schools enters its 20th anniversary year in 2015, US2020 will provide a unique opportunity to expand the depth of Citizen Schools’ services and extend its impact to new communities. There are important synergies including focusing on serving low-income communities and underrepresented minorities, a recognition that the STEM fields are vital to the growth of the country, and a commitment to connect mentors to students.

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US2020 and Discovery Communications “Connect The Dots” of STEM Education with New PSA

US2020, an organization with the mission of matching 1 million STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) mentors with students at youth-serving nonprofits by the year 2020 that is being incubated within Citizen Schools, partnered with Discovery Communications to release a new PSA to promote STEM education and mentorship. The “Connect the Dots” PSA draws connections between hands-on STEM learning and everyday life to inspire student interest in the STEM subjects and careers. Watch “Connect the Dots” and find out more about how you can get involved:

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