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Citizen Schools Sets Sail with Lending Club

Close your eyes. You’re stepping onto the netting of a 105-foot trimaran sailing boat. See the white sail majestically swell above you. Hear the seagulls call out, echoing against the hull. As the boat gains speed on the water, feel the spray of the San Francisco Bay against your skin. This morning, you boarded a school bus in East Oakland with your classmates, and this afternoon, you are no longer a 12-year-old middle schooler. You’re a young sailor on your first expedition out to sea.

Lending club blog photoOn June 17, 2015, 12 students from Greenleaf K-8 School in Oakland and their families had the unique opportunity to go on their first sailing adventure, thanks to Lending Club, a new corporate partner for Citizen Schools California headquartered in San Francisco.

CEO Renaud Laplanche and co-skipper Ryan Breymaier chartered the maxi trimaran–now called the Lending Club 2–and they have selected an international team for a racing program to take place over the next 7 months. The crew has journeyed from Europe to both the East and West coasts of the United States, hosting sailing trips for colleagues and friends, which now includes Citizen Schools students, families, and AmeriCorps Teaching Fellows.

This year, Citizen Schools welcomed Lending Club as its 2015-2017 Financial Education-Banking Apprenticeship Sponsor in California. Citizen Schools is the company’s first official education non-profit partner, helping to launch its “Doing Good” program, which supports Lending Club employees’ efforts to make a difference in their community. Laplanche spoke about the need for these efforts: “An opportunity gap exists in financial education. Lending Club and Citizen Schools share a goal to narrow that gap, and we’re very excited to launch this partnership and get started.”

Lending Club employees will be forming teams to teach financial education apprenticeships across Oakland and San Jose in the 2015-2016 academic year. This summer, Citizen Schools and Lending Club are collaborating to develop an interactive apprenticeship curriculum that introduces youth to basic financial concepts like “credit”, “debt,” and “savings.”

Citizen Schools California knows the value of intentional partnerships with companies like Lending Club. The apprenticeship model thrives and benefits our students most when we partner with individuals, across a multitude of industries, who understand our mission and recognize the larger implications of sharing their specific knowledge and resources.

“An overwhelming number of low-income students don’t have access to educational opportunities at the same level as upper-income students,” says Laplanche. “Citizen Schools has built an admirable program that effectively addresses that gap. We look forward to having a hand in leveling the playing field and helping Bay Area students develop their financial literacy.”

About Lending Club

Lending Club is the world’s largest online marketplace connecting borrowers and investors. They’re transforming the banking system to make credit more affordable and investing more rewarding. They operate at a lower cost than traditional bank lending programs and pass the savings on to borrowers in the form of lower rates and to investors in the form of solid returns.

Creating a Personal Brand with Brenda Williams, the Citizen Teacher of the Month

Providing students, particularly at the middle school level, with exposure to different professions and direction for thinking about their future is critical to preparing them for success in school and beyond. This is Brenda Williams’ goal every semester when she teaches “My Guided Personal Story” to male students at Carter G. Woodson Elementary School in Chicago, IL. With 25 years of experience as a business strategist, Brenda knows what it takes to create a compelling personal brand.

She teaches students to be the CEOs of their lives. “My Guided Personal Story (myGPS) provides a structure for the students to think about their talents, values, and dreams to ultimately tell an interesting story about themselves and who they are. The story effectively communicates who they are and where they want to be in five years,” said Brenda.

This month we celebrate Brenda as the Citizen Teacher of the Month for her passionate effort to prepare students for a successful future.

Meet Brenda…

How did you create My Guided Personal Story?

“Being a strategic planner is all about projecting a vision. I want to make sure students have something they created on their own, to remind themselves of the great young men they want to be and think about the paths they need to take to get there. It helps them to create a vision for an inspired future and think about the steps necessary to further their dreams.

Your brand begins in your mind. It’s not easy because many kids face challenges on a daily basis. They need a place in their heart and mind where they can go that says ‘I see the rainbow. I see a promising future for myself.’”

How have you seen the apprenticeship impact students?

“It’s introspective, immersive, and highly expressive. They have to use language they don’t necessarily use everyday. I work to get them a place where they can talk about themselves comfortably. We talk about how it’s okay to be vulnerable. We’ve been able to find out a lot about their lives and find out why they are the way they are.

I make them stand in their truth by getting them to describe themselves and their interests. If you want people to believe you, you have to stand strong in your truth and make people see you for who you are.

They talk to their family and friends about vision boards they create for a personal commercial. The commercial focuses on the statement: ‘This is who I am, this is what I stand for. This is my dream and this is what I want to be.’ They can keep it on their phones and easily go back to remind themselves during difficult situations.

What’s one of your favorite “aha” or “wow” moments?

“When I came back from my Citizen Teacher training, one of my former students ran up to me and said ‘I got my report card! You have to see it! I’m talking A’s and B’s. I got myself together Miss Brenda, I got myself together this time. myGPS helped me do this.’ I felt very, very fulfilled thinking about this. If you can get at least one student to move the needle that is success.

My second favorite moment is when I was starting my new course. It went from eight boys to 18 boys. The word got out and I thought it would be difficult, but three students even repeated the class. I’m not a pushover and thought they would find the apprenticeship difficult because of it. One of the students asked, ‘Miss Brenda, can I stand up and tell everyone how myGPS has changed my life?’ He stood up and did more than I could ever do for a class. He did a testimony for myGPS. It was one of those moments where I’m thinking ‘He’s got it. He gets it.’”

What advice do you have for other volunteers?

“Teaching middle school students is a lot more difficult than dealing with corporate executives. Success is defined differently. If we get one or two students to the next level in the lesson, that’s success. You have to adjust your communication to make sure you’re speaking to them at their level.

It’s not easy. This is the most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve done. I got out there to be a contributor in hopes of moving the needle and I found out how hard it is. It made me a lot more empathetic and gave me a greater understanding. Utilizing tools and suggestions from Citizen Schools’ campus staff helped me reach the students more effectively and manage their classroom behavior, which can be challenging at times.”

Why should people volunteer to teach students?

“It helps kids understand why it’s important to go to school. There are a lot of interesting careers that they had never heard of before my class. By teaching them we are opening their worlds to different roles and are fortifying their experience with what goes on in the real-world. That kind of exposure is important. Many people are looking for ways to give back but spend a lot of time working or having hobbies that are really important to them. They don’t often realize that giving back can be sharing our experiences, knowledge, and passions with kids.

Kids are the future, and people who want to cultivate and shape the future should be involved with kids. If you need structure, Citizen Schools will give you that. I think it’s a wonderful way to contribute to the future of our society in way that makes you feel good.”

From 6th Graders to CEOs

Citizen schoolsDo you remember when you first learned what a budget is? It probably wasn’t in school and it might not have been until you were presented with a situation where you needed to know how to manage one. Students are often unprepared to deal with the finances and economic realities they face as they enter adulthood. Even adults are often unaware of how to best manage their finances.

Greg Crowe wants to change that. As a senior vice president at Wells Fargo and a veteran banker, Greg knew it was important to pass his financial knowledge onto his sons as they were growing up. “I knew I wanted to share this with more kids though. We’re faced with learning about financial planning when we get into the real-world. Young people can encounter difficulties if they don’t learn it at an early age. It’s not rocket science; it’s a lack of knowledge,” said Crowe.

This spring Greg is teaching the “Your Financial Future” apprenticeship to a class of sixth graders at Patrick Henry Middle School in Houston, TX. Students are learning the ins and outs of balancing a budget and are given real-world challenges each week.

“I wanted an authentic scenario as our basis for teaching the financial literacy curriculum,” said Greg. “We began with each student representing a four-member household. They were given a job, weekly salary, house, car, and set expenses. We outlined a one month cash flow, noting what funds were fixed and what was discretionary.”

He adds, “They also had options such as choosing a fancy car or a premium TV package. We then encouraged them to think of the future and see how much they could save if they planned ahead. The students quickly began to understand the purpose of a budget.”

By providing the students with relatable scenarios, they were already gaining the concept of planning and budgeting after the first few classes. They also apply their math skills during Greg’s weekly challenges. They have had to figure out gas allowances based on their weekly mileage, decide whether they could afford a trip to Disney World and plan for a weekly grocery shopping trip based on their needs and wants.

“My goal in teaching this course was go beyond teaching the students financial planning, but getting them to really think about spending and appreciating money rather than focusing on their desires like a new pair of shoes,” said Greg. “The students have a short attention span though so I try to use different tactics to emphasize the same point from a new angle.”

Half way through the semester, he transitioned the class from focusing on a family’s budget to a company’s budget. “In this scenario, each student is a CEO. Everyone has the same hypothetical company, which in our case is an oil company. We gave them a cash flow for the first three months of the year and projections of what’s to come in the next quarter and what’s happening in the industry.”

Greg took what was presented in their personal budget management and is creating new challenges as they further grasp the concepts. “We told the students that their cash flow is dwindling and they will be expecting a call from their banker soon concerning the repayment of a loan. The students have to think of ways to convince the banker that they will be able to repay the loan. They roleplay with one student playing the role of CEO and one as the banker in this challenge. They sit in the room negotiating, the banker gives objections, and the CEO has to confidently present three ideas to ultimately save the company,” said Greg.

The students are not only grasping essential financial concepts to apply to their personal lives and a business environment, but they are also practicing their math skills and learning negotiation tactics. The students will enter seventh grade already transformed into financial advisors, ready to help a family or company balance their finances utilizing their budgeting skills learned in the class. For their final challenge the students will advise their families, teachers, and peers on budgeting and planning for the future during their WOW! event next month.

A capital victory

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Guest Post by CEO Steven Rothstein

I wish you could have been with me last week in our nation’s capital. I am so inspired by so many of the students, principals, corporate partners, and others who joined us there.

On Monday, we had a special briefing on key education and STEM issues at the White House. On Tuesday, we organized, with the partnership of many other groups and organizations, the first-ever Expanded Learning Summit: Meeting In The Middle. Many joined in person and hundreds more participated in the conversation via live stream or social media. Then on Wednesday, we continued the advocacy and momentum and brought students, educators, corporate partners and our team to Capitol Hill for meetings with 36 Democratic and Republican members in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on key education issues.

The summit was the first time a group of this scale – including more than 55 distinguished speakers and panelists – has convened to discuss how expanded learning can help close the opportunity gap for our nation’s young people. We had a range of thought leaders and policy makers participate, including our chairman, Dr. Larry Summers; the Mayor of Washington D.C.; Wendy Spencer; the Deputy Mayor of New York; a representative from the George Bush Center, and literally dozens of the “best and the brightest” in our field.

We were honored to receive a special message from President Obama himself. “Events like this summit,” he wrote, “bring together those of us working on the front lines to make better use of educational time… If our next generation is going to meet the challenges of this century, they will need more time in the classroom.”

We are deeply grateful to all of those who participated in the summit, and to the many supporters and convenors who made this event possible. They are all highlighted on our event website. We are committed to the thousands of children whom we serve, and to growing the field of expanded learning. We believe that last week’s activities were critical in advancing this agenda.

As we recognize our 20 years of service, the Expanded Learning Summit highlights how much more there is to do in our next phase. In the coming days, we’ll continue to share opportunities to engage with these important ideas, including archived video from all summit sessions.

Yours in service,

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CEO, Citizen Schools

P.S. We welcome your support to help more students across the country build the skills, access, and beliefs required for them to thrive as students and succeed as adults.

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AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow Spotlight: Q&A with Mykia Richards from Citizen Schools North Carolina

Mykia is an alumna of our AmeriCorps National Teaching Fellowship and currently works as a Deputy Campus Director at the Neal Middle School in Durham, North Carolina.

What brought you to Citizen Schools?

Mykia Richards talks with her students.

Mykia Richards talks with students at Neal Middle School.

I always knew I wanted to work with youth but wasn’t sure in what capacity. Did I want to be a teacher or did I want to work for an organization that indirectly impacted the lives of youth? I wasn’t sure. To test out the waters on the teacher side, I thought I would apply for Teach for America. I would be able to test out my teaching skills for a limited time period and sort of get my feet wet in a field that I wasn’t too sure I wanted to enter. I was so excited about all of the great things I had heard about Teach for America and was ready to apply until I came across Citizen Schools at a career fair. After learning more about the organization and its unique apprenticeship model, I was smitten and switched paths. I was on the Citizen Schools train and was ready to work hard to make an impact in a very unique way.

What has working here meant to you?

Working at Citizen Schools has been a roller coaster. With any great roller coaster there are lots of twists, jaw dropping dips, and tons of thrills. You may be hesitant to get on at first (intensive summer training and the reality that you’ll soon be responsible for 20 middle schoolers), but you do. It starts off slow (Regional training, end of July, through August), ramps up a bit (Campus Based training, leading up to the first day of school), and then takes off full speed (through the beginning of the school year). You finally get to the end (the WOW!) laughing, crying, shaking, but oddly ready to get back on again because you know you accomplished something great. Citizen Schools has stretched and pushed me in many ways and I know I will credit the organization with being the most pivotable job experience in my young career. Citizen Schools really does prepare you with the skills needed to be a successful professional in whatever career you choose to pursue. Organization, time management, critical thinking, and decisive leadership are just some of the many traits Citizen Schools strengthens in the individual. With any job there are going to be challenges; like those roller coasters that take you on the ride of your life. However, the organization definitely prepares you to ride those coasters and you’ll get off saying “I’m a pro; that was nothing, because I’ve ridden the greatest roller coaster of them all and that’s the Citizen Schools Coaster!”

What has your biggest achievement been since you began working here?

I believe my biggest achievement has been being a role model for over 50 students during my time with the organization. As educators, we have a big responsibility when we step in front of the classroom. It’s humbling – by stepping into this room, I have the power and influence through my words and actions to impact the minds and hearts of the students. That’s big, and a responsibility that I don’t take lightly. Years from now, I will see some of the students that passed through my classes and I will say “Wow! I remember when…” and I  won’t believe that I had some type of impact, no matter how big or small. That’s powerful, and I am proud of that. Our youth are our future and if we don’t give them time, encouragement, and guidance then who will?

What are you looking forward to in your next 6 months at work?

I am looking forward to lots of growth and “ah ha!” moments. Working as a campus leader has been a lot different than serving in the classroom as an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow. It has pushed me to think in different ways about a variety of situations. I feel fortunate to work with an awesome Campus Director who has a strong work ethic and propensity for excellence. This individual truly has made my time bearable and I am looking forward to working with and learning even more through her example in these next few months.

I am also looking forward to pushing staff to work to the best of their abilities to impact the students. One of the biggest challenges in transitioning from a Teaching Fellow to Deputy Campus Director was realizing that my primary focus is no longer directly serving students. I can no longer get caught up in the minute details of how a lesson should be delivered or how classroom procedures should be structured. My primary focus is now supporting our AmeriCorps National Teaching Fellows and School Support staff, working through them to get results for our students. If they are supported and have the tools to do their jobs then the students will be successful. That was a paradigm shift for me, and I look forward to continuing to work to ensure staff feel appreciated, supported, and valued. Our staff work extremely hard every day and deserve a lot of credit for their work; the least I can do is express my appreciation to them, have their back and empower them to have the most impact on our students. That is my mission for the next 6 months.

Interested in joining the team? Apply to join the AmeriCorps Teaching Fellowship here. If you’d like to apply to a campus leadership role, learn more and apply here.