Finding What's Next with The Opportunity Network

At Citizen Schools, we often hear the question, “What happens to your students after 8th grade?” Thanks to a grant from the Heckscher Foundation for Children, Citizen Schools New York, in partnership with The Opportunity Network, has an answer to that question. And it’s a good one… The Opportunity Network is a growing organization with a similar mission to Citizen Schools—to expose kids to new ideas and new dreams, helping them along a path to college and career success. Over the last two years The Opportunity Network piloted a new program, OppNet Prep. The program's primary aim is for students to build a solid foundation in college and career goal-setting and skill-building. Those skills will then help them maximize the impact of any enrichment programs in subsequent high school years and increase the odds of success on the road to college.

OppNet Prep is expanding this year in both numbers and scope, doubling participants from 72 to 154 students. We are proud to announce that 10 of our own Citizen Schools alumni have been accepted to participate.

This year, Citizen Schools and OppNet Prep are answering that question, “What’s next?” After a very competitive application process, the accepted 9th grade students started the program this fall. As it grows, students will attend a summer bridge program between 8th and 9th grade to help prepare the students for high school.

Throughout the year, they will have after school workshops in which they will connect with influential professionals from a variety of career fields and explore how to get into college.

This amazing new partnership between Citizen Schools and The Opportunity Network is called the Middle School to High School Transition Coalition. It’s the beginning stages of a big idea about targeted, thoughtful collaboration between non-profit resources to support students in need through their school transitions. With these two programs working in tandem, New York’s students will have a structured support system, carrying them from middle school to high school and beyond.

Thanks to support from the Heckscher Foundation for Children, this opportunity for Citizen Schools’ alumni was made possible. The Heckscher Foundation for Children was founded in 1921 to promote the welfare of children in New York and across the country. The foundation provides grants to organizations like Citizen Schools, who serve youth in the fields of education, family services, child welfare, health, arts and recreation. We are thrilled to be recognized by such a prestigious foundation.

And we’re not the only ones who are excited! Our students can’t wait to begin their programming with OppNet Prep. 9th grader at NYC iSchool and Citizen Schools alumna, Kaira Batiz, was recently accepted to the OppNet Prep program.

"I was so happy when I found out I got in. There was this feeling of achievement and I was so proud of myself. I thank Citizen Schools so much because they were there to encourage me. That’s something you don’t experience often, a community of people that are here for you and care about your future," she said.

OppNet Prep is also looking forward to our new partnership. Dana Marra, OppNet Prep Instructor and former Citizen Schools Teaching Associate, has seen both programs in action and understands why this partnership is such a great fit.

She said, “Citizen Schools students have already been exposed to many different opportunities through their apprenticeships. Coming out of 8th grade they are poised to interact with working adults in a professional manner. At OppNet Prep, those kids will be able to take that one step further and actually begin to cultivate their own professional identity. The partnership allows OppNet Prep to really reach the population we’re looking for, kids from under-served public schools, and get them on track for college and careers.”

The Citizen Schools journey doesn't end after middle school. Thanks to partners like The Opportunity Network and foundations like the Heckscher Foundation for Children, we can ensure that our students go on to achieve their dreams well after 8th grade.