Googler's Passion Opens Her Eyes Through Volunteering

Britton Picciolini is a Sr. Agency Business Development Manager at Google and a Citizen Teacher with Citizen Schools Illinois.

britton4I’ve been a Googler on the sales team for 11 years, and recently I took on an additional role that has altered the way I think about my career. I started teaching kids.

Photography is a serious passion of mine - my degree is in photojournalism - so I enlisted three of my colleagues to help me teach an “apprenticeship” class with the national nonprofit Citizen Schools. Once a week we would leave the office early to be volunteer Citizen Teachers at Cesar Chavez Middle School on the south side of Chicago to a group of 21 middle schoolers.

When the kids are finished with their traditional school day of classes, they come to Citizen Schools and get to work with professionals from all types of careers. During our photography apprenticeship class we taught the kids about the history and basic principles of photography using digital technology.

We used Android tablets that Google provided and had the students take pictures in class to practice elements they’ve learned. We set up a Google+ account so when we take pictures with the tablets and smartphones, the images are instantly uploaded to the account. As soon as the exercise is over, the kids can immediately see everyone’s work on the Smart Board in class. The kids think it’s awesome! They learned the technology very quickly, so it was easy for us to focus on developing their photographic technique.

britton5There are those times when they’re being typical fidgety middle school students, and you wonder if they are even listening to you. Then the next time you ask a question, they all know the answer. They are amazing sponges--it’s incredible how much they retain. They are so quick to learn and it has been awesome to see their photos and watch them develop their own style.

If you told me six months ago that I was going to be teaching kids photography, I wouldn't have believed it. Now I know I want to teach this class every semester until Citizen Schools kicks me out! This experience has opened my eyes to what challenges these kids face in their daily lives. Some of them have to walk home across gang lines through dangerous neighborhoods. For us as Citizen Teachers to come in and be able to show them other opportunities in their world is amazing. My hope is that I can spark a student to see the world differently and possibly ignite a passion they’ll have for life.

britton3Being a Citizen Teacher has changed me and how I view my professional future. I want the work I do to have some level of philanthropic angle. I’ve done some introspection on how I want the next 20 years of my life to look, and I know it includes work likes this. I highly recommend all Googlers join the national movement and become a Citizen Teacher. It will change students lives, and yours.