Ed Lau is a Technical Account Manager at Microsoft in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is a six-time Citizen Teacher with Citizen Schools. This is adapted from a speech he gave at the Celebrating Community Collaboration benefit event.
I was actually first roped into volunteering by a co-worker. At first, it seemed like an interesting opportunity to get out, interact with my peers in a non-work setting, and get in some professional development time. Once I taught that first semester, my view on Citizen Schools changed. Little did I when I signed up to co-teach an “apprenticeship” class to middle school students that I would come back to do it again, and again.
Three years later, I have taught six apprenticeships with a group of colleagues, teaching middle school students in Charlotte, North Carolina the ins and outs of computers and how technology impacts their lives. During that first semester, one of the students came up to me and told me that she wanted to come work for Microsoft one day. It gave me a great sense of pride and I decided then that I would keep volunteering with Citizen Schools.
Now, the past few years haven’t been easy. Keeping a room full of middle school students in line takes a lot of work! If anything, I’ve developed a huge appreciation for the teachers that do this role every day.
Last fall, I wasn’t sure if I could keep giving the level of energy necessary for leading an apprenticeship and I considered retiring as a Citizen Teacher. Then, at the end of the semester when the students from all of the apprenticeship classes have a chance to present what they learned during the program, I browsed the other presentations. I stepped into one presentation for the “Brand You” apprenticeship. In this class, each student had to make their own personal brand slides, showing their own interests, career goals, and how they were going to accomplish them. One of the students I taught during the semester was also part of this class and he had put “work for Microsoft” as his goal.
Despite all of the challenges and hardships, I had managed to reach at least one student that semester. That experience once again changed my mind and gave me a reason to keep coming back.
There is always at least one student each semester that will internalize the experience and make important life, education, and career changes based on it. I come back each semester to reach that one student and shape his or her future. For that one student, I will happily volunteer my time
Citizen Schools has made a huge impact on students in Charlotte and across the country. You can get involved in shaping the lives of students by signing up teach an apprenticeship in the fall. But take it from me, you might never want to stop.