Corey Neufville is on the Media Solutions team at Facebook in New York. He has taught four “apprenticeship” classes through the Citizen Schools program at Bronx Writing Academy.
When I was asked to participate in American Graduate Day as part of the Citizen Schools segment on public television, I was shocked, grateful, and a little bit nervous at the same time. I am proud to do anything I can do to bring more people into the Citizen Schools mission of connecting students to successful futures. For many reasons, I believe that volunteering with Citizen Schools is one of the most impactful things you can do...
1. Build lasting Connections
When you choose to be a volunteer “Citizen Teacher,” you’re not just coming into the school for one day. You sign up to teach once a week for ten weeks. You really get to know each child and create a lasting connection that could change that child’s life. There’s nothing like having conversations with the kids and seeing the focus in their eyes. Talking to them about what they can become in the future and seeing them truly light up is incredible. Kids might have shorter attention spans, but when you take the time to talk to them one-on-one, it has a big impact. This volunteer opportunity also allowed me to form deeper bonds with my colleagues. By participating together we strengthened our teamwork in the office.
2. Hands-on learning works
Kids learn at different paces and they are naturally energetic and curious. Sometimes they are discouraged in a traditional school setting, but if you can allow them to use that energy in a hands-on way, they become engaged in the content and aspire to be something that might not have interested them before. (To see for yourself, check out these videos of the students launching rockets outside their school)
3. Mentoring is powerful
Kids need to have somebody guiding them. They naturally look toward others for direction and they need someone who is going to encourage them and show them the way. All people look for validation and it’s important for kids to have a role model supporting them, especially during the critical time of middle school.
4. Kids are like sponges
It surprised me just how smart kids are, and how quickly they are able to grasp complex concepts. As adults, we might have certain preconceptions about their aptitude, but if you give them a project, they are more than willing to take it on. In the Robotics class I taught, all of the students were able to understand the concepts, regardless of their proficiency in math or speaking English. One group of girls even started working on their robots during their lunch time. Once you show kids how to get started, you’ll be surprised how fast they can pick up and run.
Participating in the segment on American Graduate Day was a chance to share what keeps me coming back to Bronx Writing Academy to volunteer with Citizen Schools. There are countless reasons to get involved, but above all, it’s a unique opportunity to truly affect how children will view themselves for years to come, opening their eyes to things they may not have experienced otherwise. You can make a significant impact on students’ lives by signing up to teach an apprenticeship for the spring semester. Once you start, you might never want to stop making a difference.