The Real Impact of Volunteering: The Bank of America Story

After teaching a ten-week apprenticeship class, our volunteers often say, “The students taught me more than I taught them.” We love that our volunteer Citizen Teachers feel so fulfilled after working with the students, but we wondered, what does that really mean?

So we decided to ask two Citizen Teachers from Bank of America in Charlotte, North Carolina. Nanelle Napp is Senior Vice President of Marketing and a member of Citizen Schools’ NC Advisory Board and Andrew Blaser is AVP of Business Controls and Monitoring. Here’s what they had to say:


Citizen Schools: How did you hear about Citizen Schools?

Andrew: I heard about it from someone who is in the leadership development program for recently graduated MBAs with me. I was new to Charlotte and looking for volunteer opportunities.

CS: Nanelle, as a Citizen Schools North Carolina Advisory Board member, what was it like actually teaching for the first time?

The Brand You Apprenticeship

The Brand You Apprenticeship

Nanelle: It showed me the real impact that both students and professionals get from the apprenticeship experience. From a professional standpoint, teaching together helped us build a very strong team. We all leveraged each other to make sure that each lesson was as effective as it could be, and had great brainstorming sessions. And for the students, having such a diverse group of teachers made the lessons very accessible. We saw how much they appreciated our time and commitment. That was very powerful.

CS: How did teaching an apprenticeship impact the relationships you had with the members of your team?

Nanelle: It fosters friendships for one thing. I feel closer to the people in marketing than I did before and I’ve made new friends at the same time. It gives you an appreciation for your teammates that you wouldn’t get otherwise because you’re working on something together that is totally different than your jobs.

Andrew: Nanelle actually convinced me to join her team. One of the best parts of working with Citizen Schools was that I didn’t know any of the five people on my team at first and now I’m really close to them. I got to meet some people in the marketing department that I wouldn’t get to meet or work with otherwise. I even play tennis with one of them now!

CS: In addition to connecting with each other, how did you connect with the students?

Student Wearing Andrew's Tie

Student Wearing Andrew’s Tie

Andrew: On the night of the WOW! event one of my students, Jonathan, was really upset in the corner of the room. He is usually a pretty energetic kid so I went over and talked to him, and he simply said, “I hate my tie!” He hated it so much that he was embarrassed to be wearing it. So I offered him my tie and he got super excited. He instantly was back to normal and was a star performer of the evening. It was such a great moment.

CS: As part of the apprenticeship experience you went beyond the classroom and hosted an event at Bank of America for the students to network with bank executives. Why was that important?

Nanelle: I wanted to have the event at Bank of America for two reasons. When I was little I used to go to my father’s office. My dad worked in the Empire State Building. Those kinds of visits really stick with you as a child. Giving kids the opportunity to meet people and see people in the working environment is very important. The second reason is that sometimes it’s a challenge to get executives out of the office, so if we brought the kids to them, we could expose more people at the bank to Citizen Schools and to the students. It was a win-win.

CS: Was there a moment where you realized the impact your team was having on the students?

Andrew: One story pops immediately to mind. We did a lesson about working through our strengths and weaknesses. At the end of the day when we asked the students what they had learned, one girl raised her hand and said, ‘I learned that if I put my mind to it, I can do anything.’ It was incredible that she got that take-away and that she believed that. For me that was the number one example of seeing these kids transform and become more like adults. We all had goose bumps.

Do you want to experience the same impact that Nanelle and Andrew did? Sign up to teach an apprenticeship today and you’ll understand why so many volunteers keep coming back, and why, indeed, they learn more than they ever imagined.