TF Spotlight: Izzy Alteon

This week, we’re spotlighting a  second year AmeriCorps fellow from the New York – New Jersey region. Read more about her passion for service, reflections of her experience, and her work preparing 8th graders for high school and beyond.

My decision to become an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow was an unexpected decision. I was always immersed in research whether it was assisting my professors in their own research or brainstorming ideas for a Fulbright or Watson study abroad experience. I imagined myself leaving Colby and pursuing research in Cultural Studies or exploring interests in Public and Community Health. Colby wasn’t an easy academic or social experience for me, but the difficulty was both inspirational and motivational. I was given the opportunity to provide service to my campus by mentoring my younger peers and programming learning experiences that would engage the campus community on issues of diversity, multiculturalism, and identity politics.

Becoming an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow was easy- I would get the chance to intervene in the lives of young adults at a critical point in their educational journey. I would become a role model, coach, and instructor, helping them navigate academic challenges, cultural misunderstandings, and questions of identity.

What has been one of the most transformative moments of your service?

One of the most transformative moments of my service thus far would actually be a series of moments where I’ve witnessed the excitement 8th grade students expressed towards the high school application process.

Recently, I took a group of 8th grade students on a weekend trip to the Brooklyn High School Fair. Students were intensely engaged during the fair- stopping at each and every table, talking to current students and guidance counselors about what they could expect at that school, and gathering every prospective student publication or school swag they could get their hands on! Since attending the fair, students have reminded me about countless open houses and asked questions about specific schools graduation rates and college attendance rates. They are serious about their high school research!

Over the summer, I began Specialized High School Admissions Test Prep (SHSAT) for rising 8th graders. We would continue to prepare for the test up until their exam last week during lunch time and choice club time. Students would get in a tizzy if I was late, absent, or didn’t bring enough test prep work for them. I am extremely proud of them for preparing for the test and taking the positive risk by taking the test – These were the moments I was waiting for since I first met my team last Fall!

How has service changed you and/or your perspective of the world?

Service hasn’t necessarily changed my perspective of the world, but rather strengthened my belief in the capacity for everyone to give towards others. The act of giving and doing genuinely and wholeheartedly, especially in our work of educating and mentoring youth is like planting a flower. We are all planting flowers in our classrooms and these flowers will eventually flourish into gardens- learning communities on our campuses where students are more confident, self-aware, and determined. This world has many issues and injustices which work together to isolate us from each other. I serve because I also believe there is a world of possibility, rich with experiences and opportunities for us to connect and empower each other.

Be a Part of the Solution with Motorola Mobility!

Be Part of the Solution with Motorola Mobility!

For the past two years, Citizen Schools has partnered with Motorola Mobility Foundation to challenge students in grades 5-8 to be the social innovators of tomorrow! The Chicago Maker Challenge is a city-wide contest in which middle and high school students develop a hardware or software solution that solves a community problem or makes the world more accessible to people with disabilities.

Under the guidance of Motorola Mobility volunteers known as Citizen Teachers, students participating in Citizen Schools designed solutions such as stuffed animals equipped with bluetooth technology to combat depression, wheelchairs equipped with GPS systems and a mobile app that can help a police force identify crime trends in real-time!

The competition is fierce—students’ designs underwent two rounds of judging on the criteria of community impact, originality, design quality, and alignment of a solution to the identified problem. We congratulate Citizen Schools’ students and volunteers on earning several awards:

  •         Community Solutions Finalist: KAE Animals, Chase Elementary
  •         Best Video: Self Reliant Wheelchair, Woodson South Elementary School
  •         Best Design: Super Shovel, Chase Elementary School
  •         Best Product Name: Gun Glasses

Citizen Schools Illinois thanks Motorola Mobility Foundation for being one of our most generous financial supporters.  In addition to substantial philanthropic support, since 2013 more than 50 Motorola Mobility employees have given over 6,000 hours to impact over 170 middle school students in Chicago Public Schools. Citizen Schools is excited to continue our partnership with Motorola Mobility for the 2015-2016 school year.

The Motorola Mobility Foundation (MMF) is the philanthropic arm of Motorola Mobility LLC, a Lenovo company.  Motorola Mobility Foundation seeks to catalyze the innovative use of technology to improve lives and communities. We do this by leveraging employee expertise and talent, providing funding, and partnering with nonprofits, learning institutions, startups, government, corporate and civic organizations.

Congratulations to the Presidential Volunteer Service Award Winners!

As we say here at Citizen Schools, it takes a village to serve our students. Among the leaders in that village are volunteer Citizen Teachers, who play a critical role in introducing students to engaging opportunities and diverse careers. During the 2014-2015 school year, over 2,300 Citizen Teachers taught more than 1,000 apprenticeships, impacting over 5,300 students across our network.

psa eagle

Each year, The President of the United States recognizes those who volunteer for causes across the country through the President’s Volunteer Service Awards. Hundreds of our Citizen Teachers are among the recipients.  For some, this is their very first honor. For others, it is part of a collection of Presidential Awards, representing the many semesters they have returned to teach. For all, this is a testament to their civic leadership.

This year, 422 volunteer Citizen Teachers received recognition from the President at the gold, silver, and bronze award levels. Each level corresponds to a specific level of engagement – and reflects an incredible investment in the students we serve:

  • 61 Gold award winners for teaching four of the past four semesters
  • 70 Silver award winners for teaching three of the past four semesters
  • 291 Bronze award winners for teaching two of the past four semesters

Volunteers from our National Leadership Partners (Biogen, Cisco, Cognizant, Fidelity Investments, and Google) accounted for 66 awards, and 80 of our partner companies were represented in the overall total.

Winner breakdown by region:

  • California:  54
  • Illinois:  43
  • Massachusetts:  126
  • New Jersey:  20
  • New York:  76
  • North Carolina:  80
  • Texas:  23

We are celebrating these volunteers around the network throughout the summer at WOW!s and at Citizen Teacher social events. This award is a meaningful way to reinforce the impact Citizen Teachers have on the community, and a way to show our appreciation for their commitment to sharing their knowledge and passion with students.
Please join us in celebrating their dedication!

psa gold


Ailey Crow, CA – Pivotal Software, Inc.

Albert Ching, CA – Google

Alfonso Perez, MA – New Valence Robotics

Amelia Molina, TX

Andrea Folmer, NC – Bank of America

Anne Bowie, MA – WilmerHale, LLP

Arthur Everett, NC – EMC

Arun Joseph, NC – EMC

Becki Holub, NY – Google

Bill Good, MA – Massachusetts Youth Rugby Organization

Bin Wu, CA – SanDisk

Brian Smith, TX – Dominion Solution Corporation

Carol Lenox, NC – US Environmental Protection Agency

Christopher Haid, MA – New Valence Robotics

Coleman Poag, NC – EMC

Daniel Oldman, NC – EMC

Donna Fontana, NY – Fidelity Investments

Douglas Campbell, CA

Douglas Reagan, NJ – Cisco

Ed Lau, NC – Microsoft

Emily Hodge, MA – Choate Hall + Stewart LLP

Emily Thomas, TX – Rice University

Eric Frackleton, MA – Microsoft

Eric Teasdale, MA – Choate Hall + Stewart LLP

Erin Buckman, NC – Credit Suisse

Gayle Moberg, NY – GDM Market Solutions

Harry Bullen, NY – Google

Hong Zou, NC – EMC

Jacqueline Mantica, MA – Choate Hall + Stewart LLP

James Reid, NC – Credit Suisse

Jerry Diehl, NC – EMC

Jesse Nocon, MA – Massachusetts Youth Rugby Organization

Joe Darko, NC – Microsoft

Joseph Eveillard, MA – Cambridge Adventure Day Camp

Josh Glazer, NY – Bank of America

Katherine Kelley, MA – Digitas

Kelley Coyne, CA – Women’s Audio Mission

Kelly Flook, CA – Thermo Fisher Scientific

Kerry Laidlaw, CA

Kimone Gooden, CA – Cisco

Kirstin Frazell, NY – Facebook

Leanne Measroch, NC – Microsoft

Linda Lazor, CA

MacCalvin Romain, MA – Digitas

Martin Stanton, NJ – Cisco

Melanie Closs, NY – The Other Side

Michael Bevilacqua, MA – WilmerHale, LLP

Neil Jacobs, MA – WilmerHale, LLP

Philip Armstrong, NC – Bank of America

Prateek Sachdeva, CA – Oracle

Rachel Stout, TX – Houston Public Library

Rachele Louis, CA – Gensler

Rebecca Dodder, NC – US Environmental Protection Agency

Robert P. Mersereau, MA – Aldrich Estronomical Society

Rosema Hermano, CA – EMC

Ruth Gitlin, NY – Angelo, Gordon & Co.

Shivani Mehta, NJ – Johnson & Johnson

Sonya Johnson, NC – CPCC STARS Alliance

Susan Dickey, CA – Google

Victoria Ho, CA – Google

William MacKrell, NC – SAS Institute


psa silver


Adam Richlin, NY

Aisha Davis, NC – Microsoft

Alex Lawing, NC – UNCC

Amanda Kaufman, NC – US Environmental Protection Agency

Ana Lopez, MA – Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky + Popeo PC

Andree Fryar, NC – Wells Fargo / Wachovia

Angela Berry, NC – City of Charlotte

Anne-Marie Stevenson, NC – Latta Plantation Nature Center

Aric Sangruchi, CA – Space Systems/Loral

Audrey Hoiles, MA – Cambridge Associates

Aya Rothkopf, CA – Space Systems/Loral

Bara Reyna, TX – NASA

Benjamin Eld, MA – Digitas

Bill Stitson, MA – Trip Advisor, LLC

Brian Conley, MA – Microsoft

Brianna Muhlenkamp, TX – Shell Oil Company

Chris Casanova, NC – Microsoft Corporation

Cindy Gabriel, IL – Deloitte

Cody Spencer, IL – Chicago Public Schools

Daniel Davison, NY – Bank of America

David Konczal, IL – Motorola Mobility Foundation

David Rahmani, TX – Shell Oil Company

Erika Schroeder, NY – Pratt Institute

Ethan Apter, MA – Google

Faris Werr, NC – Wells Fargo / Wachovia

Genevieve Aguilar Reardon, MA – Choate Hall + Stewart LLP

Gifty Mansaray, MA – Edwards Middle School

Giovanni Green, NY

Hall Cherville, NY – AB

Jared Cohen, MA – WilmerHale, LLP

Jean-Yves Ntamwemezi, MA – Microsoft

Jennifer Blood, NY

Jocasta Conyers-Johnson, TX – The Women’s Fund for Health Education and Research

Jody Weber, MA – Bank of America

Justin Forman, NY – Google

Karen Nee, MA – Bank of America

Kesha Diamond, NY – Apthorp Pharmacy

Kiara Byrd, IL – Project Exploration

Kim Kiesow, NC – EMC

Kweku Ulzen, NC – Microsoft

La Rue Ragan, CA – Raven Works Field Sports Ministry

Lauren Kupersmith, MA – Goodwin Procter LLP

Leora Rodenstein, MA – WilmerHale, LLP

Lisa Berkshire, IL – Motorola Mobility Foundation

Mark Melfi, NC – Fidelity Investments

Martin Lopez Diaz, Jr., CA – LifeLong Medical Care

Megan Petrik, NC – Bank of America

Micaela Warton, MA – YWCA Boston

Michelle Hocking, CA – Google

Molly Berman, NY – Planned Parenthood

Nanelle Napp, NC – Bank of America

Olubukola Ashaolu, NY – National Employment Law Project

Onalie Sotak, MA – Google

Rachel Klooz, NY – Google

Richard Carey, MA – Thermo Fisher Scientific

Robert Mersereau Jr., MA – No 9 Park Restaurant

Robert Shames, MA – Choate Hall + Stewart LLP

Roland Labana, IL – Motorola Mobility Foundation

Roy Fralin, NC – Fidelity Investments

Ryan Futrell, NC – Fidelity Investments

Samantha Powers, MA – Microsoft

Sanjay Kadiwala, IL – Motorola Mobility Foundation

Scott McConnell, MA – Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Sowji Karumuri, NC – EMC

Susan Freeman, MA – Northeastern University

Tanisha Myers, NC – Wells Fargo / Wachovia

Tayeb Karim, MA – Google

Valerie Peicher, TX – Baylor College of Medicine

William Davis, NC – Credit Suisse

William Merritt, NC – Bank of America

Great Strides by U.S. Senate to Improve Education


Great news from Capitol Hill!

Today the U.S. Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), a bipartisan overhaul of the long-expired No Child Left Behind education law, by a vote of 81-17. Citizen Schools commends the Senate for their leadership in producing legislation that preserves federal programs critical to expanded learning, and provides enough flexibility to support high-quality expanded learning time!

Following today’s vote in the Senate, both chambers of Congress are expected to form a conference committee to develop a bicameral agreement to send to the President. The Senate and House will have to find common ground among their two bills to ultimately ensure every child in every school receives an excellent education.

Branding a Leader

What does it take to be a highly effective leader? Confidence, integrity and action immediately come to mind. But according to Shraddha Nunziata, Citizen Schools’ Campus Director of Renaissance School of the Arts in East Harlem, New York, it doesn’t stop there. She shares her journey of discovering why a “personal leadership brand” is another important component in building leadership.

When I switched from teaching into campus leadership, my organization, Citizen Schools, invested in my professional development. I learned so much about myself as a leader, skills that I could have leveraged in the classroom had I learned them earlier. One powerful workshop I attended was, “Leadership Styles: Developing the Personal Leader,” facilitated by IBM. IBM performs philanthropy through sharing knowledge and expertise. In lieu of monetary donations, IBM conducts workshops for a range of groups on a wide variety of topics.

I found the IBM leadership workshop particularly compelling because I started the workshop by providing my goals for the session, and I left with a clear plan for myself and my team. The expertise of the presenters, the mix of attendees, and the combination of personalities, meant people were eager to contribute, honestly expressed their opinions, and shared insights into personal leadership development as well as the climate of our organization as a whole.

IBM photo

Workshop in action!

Having a leadership brand is a basic requirement, but as a teacher-turned-leader, this idea is a life-changing concept. The highly effective leaders around me all have their leadership brands. My principal’s is “get to the point and always say yes”.  My assistant principal’s is “confidence is key”.  What is mine?  My brand should drive my work as a leader; my roles and responsibilities should stem from my brand.  For example, my brand is “cultivating openness through personal honesty”.  It’s still a work in progress, but I know I am an open book and my honesty and openness makes others feel comfortable.

The bulk of my work as a leader should stem from this mantra, so my time should be spent in coaching conversations with my teachers, leading trainings on classroom management, and delegating tasks based on my team members’ personal strengths. I need to eliminate mundane, but surprisingly enjoyable, spreadsheet-based tasks and empower other team members to develop in those areas. To execute on my brand, I should spend the bulk of my time building relationships, fostering vulnerability, and coaching others to reflect on their practice and grow as teachers.

The facilitators of the IBM workshop based most of their key points on the Daniel Goleman article, “Leadership that Gets Results” from the Harvard Business Review. It has a great layout of six leadership styles and their impact on team/organizational climate. The results were surprising: an authoritative leadership style has the most positive effects on climate, followed closely by an affiliative and democratic styles. I had the personal realization that I can make my natural inclination toward affiliative and democratic styles work for me by being more authoritative: establishing a clear vision and empowering others to join me in executing the vision.

My hope is that people who are transitioning into new roles, particularly from teaching, know what’s out there for them in terms of professional leadership development. For any career changer or career advancer, building self-awareness in the context of working with others is key to making an impact. If you, the professional, can identify your strengths and your personal brand, it’s easier to adapt to any environment, flex communication styles, and create a climate that gets results. If you aren’t lucky enough to have the opportunity to participate in an IBM workshop, read the Goleman article for a great primer.