On February 8, 2018, over 40 Volunteers from more than 20 Businesses in the Bay Area gathered at Greenleaf Elementary School in Oakland, California to take part in our annual 6 Degrees of the Bay Area networking event! Students had the chance to network with professionals from fields ranging from Architecture, Computer Science, and Human Resources to name a few.
Think middle school is too soon to prep for college? Think again. At Citizen Schools, we're working to close the opportunity gap by reaching students at the crucial time between 5th and 8th grade, providing academic support and real-world apprenticeships. That's why we recently helped bring together over sixty 8th graders for a networking event where they picked up practical tips and inspiration from working professionals. We followed along; here are three takeaways to help you mentor a young person.
Take risks Taking risks sounds like the obvious answer to getting out of your comfort zone. But the unknown can also be unnerving. The good news is that there are varying degrees of risk, and some low-risk chances can have a high reward. If you're shy, volunteering to answer a question and possibly having the wrong answer can feel like the end of the world. But diving in like that should be encouraged!
For another student, taking a risk may be signing up for a different class or sport. We all have our areas in which we excel more than others. Being flexible about trying new activities means that we can avoid tunnel vision and learn about new interests, and middle school is an especially great time to hone new skills as you consider the many potential opportunities and paths ahead.
Gain hands-on experience Academics aren't just intense study sessions at the library - they also include hands-on practice. For some students, academics include designing and coding a video game, and diversifying your academic portfolio can do a lot to impress college admissions staff. When college admissions are considering applications grades are only part of the equation. Proving you can think as well as do will give a certain edge over the competition.
This is why apprenticeships are key to Citizen Schools’ model to close the opportunity gap. By bringing in passionate professionals to teach practical applications of 21st century skills, not only do middle school students earn a marketable skill they may not have otherwise, but it will serve to expand their horizons. Even if students don’t become what they studied as a career down the line, they still opened doors to new professional horizons.
Ask Questions “Why is the sky blue?” “Why is ice cold?” “Why do tigers have stripes?” Anyone that has spent time with a young person knows that one of their favorite things to do is ask questions. Encourage students to keep curiosity alive by continuing to be inquisitive.
Great questions can include what you do for work, why you enjoy it, and what you wanted to be when you grew up. It’s ok to talk about both successes, and scenarios that offered lessons for improvement. The more students are exposed to different career profiles, the more they will feel comfortable stepping outside of their own comfort zones and shaping their own journey.
Modern life offers new challenges and stresses for young people, and mentor/mentoree relationships are powerful bridges between the professional world and our next great generation of thinkers, makers and doers. You can help start the conversation, and middle school is an especially good time to make that happen. And, it's a discussion that is relevant at any age! What advice would you share for someone starting out on this journey? Add your tips in the comments!
The Huffington Post September 13, 2013
As part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute, Eric Schwarz, Co-Founder and CEO of Citizen Schools, authored an opinion piece to recognizing the power of national service to mobilize thousands of volunteers. The series is in conjunction with the National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11th and the 20th anniversary of the signing of the AmeriCorps legislation on September 20th.
"'I want to be a professional football player in the NFL," Abdullah said, on the first day of a professional networking class he signed up for at his middle school.
Jessica Fick, a former member of AmeriCorps, was facilitating the class with Charlie Bini, an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow who was serving at the Louise A. Spencer School in Newark, NJ. Their goal was to help each student discover a dream and begin mapping a path to achieving it." Read the rest of the Citizen Power, Multiplied.
If you've ever been to Newark, New Jersey you will notice one thing very quickly-- this community cares about each other. Over the past four months, 400 middle school students have gotten the chance to experience the impact of a community that cares about their success. Thanks to volunteer "Citizen Teachers" from community organizations and corporations, these students have transformed into solar engineers, esteemed bloggers, and masters in martial arts through the Citizen Schools apprenticeship program. With guidance from these experts who come from all walks of life, they've gained real-world knowledge and built skills necessary to succeed in a 21st century workplace. On June 15, 2013 the young men of Eagle Academy showed off what they learned during their apprenticeship classes at a community-wide celebration. These students took guests down their path to discovery as they presented their final products and presentations. Here is a peek at a few of the featured apprenticeships...
Networking can lead to big opportunities--even for 6th graders! Every week a group of students headed down to the Prudential building to meet with volunteers from the Black Leadership Forum, which is a business resource group within the company dedicated to professional development of its black employees. The volunteers made deep personal connections with the students, showing them how to present themselves professionally and confidently. After ten weeks, these students have big dreams and they are "six degrees" closer to achieving them.
Jared Noll, Citizen Schools Teaching Fellow said, "Our students have really grown over the last ten weeks in our Six Degrees apprenticeship. Many of them have already established career goals and began making connections with professionals to further those goals. I look forward to partnering up with Prudential again next year and seeing how much further we can push our students! Good job, Eagles!"
Piyush Modak, a Laboratory Engineer at the medical technology company Endomedix, made science come to life for students as they learned how to build real solar cars. The students had the unique opportunity to present their cars at the New York Academy of Sciences to a room full of scientists, engineers and even NASA Astronaut Charlie Camarda, who has been into outer space and back. They even had a special visit from the CEO of the company who shared brand new technologies that are being used in operating rooms to help save lives.
Piyush said, "It was an amazing opportunity. To be able to share my passion for science and engineering and critical thinking with the kids was an unparalleled experience. Some days I struggled and on some I triumphed, but seeing the kids apply their minds to create "something out of nothing" was truly rewarding. I made them think."
Sensei Jim has been a member of the Citizen Schools family since 2009, bringing his love of martial arts to students in Newark. Over the past several years he has taught 20 apprenticeships! Twice a week, students not only learn the discipline of martial arts, but also learn the value of giving back to the community by writing letters to the elderly in nursing homes, cleaning the local Jesse Allen Park, and making pet toys for a local animal shelter.
Sensei Jim said, "A friend was speaking to a colleague about me and the H.E.A.R.T. Martial Arts program and how I teach the students for free. His colleague's response was, 'Your friend is a rich man!' His colleague is right, I have many golden moments over the years where the students have made me so proud. The joy of teaching and the experiences that Citizen Schools has afforded me cannot be measured in a monetary sense."
The students of these three apprenticeship classes and more truly WOWed the crowd as guests witnessed the magic of bringing schools and communities together to impact the lives of students.
At Citizen Schools the theory of six degrees of separation is much bigger than a connection to actor Kevin Bacon. We've seen the power of networking come to life in our students. This fall at our 6 Degrees networking events across the country, they've met engineers, bankers, artists, scientists and more. This is what happens when American citizens connect with kids...
1. New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, a group of 6th graders from the Louise A. Spencer School experienced 6 Degrees in an apprenticeship class led by two employees from Cognizant and Citizen Schools staff member, Jessica Fick.
On December 5, they gathered at the Cognizant office to show off their newly developed skills. Citizen Teacher and Cognizant employee, Young Lee, was proud as the kids met with his colleagues. He said, "I believe that making a good first impression and connecting with others is an important life skill to have. I was really proud to see our students grow in confidence during the event. They eased into the exercise and grew comfortable speaking with strangers and showed their confidence."
The event served as a catalyst for one young man, Abdullah, who realized that he wanted to become a mechanical engineer and work for Cognizant in the future. To read Abdullah's story and find out more about the 6 Degrees of Newark event, check out this blog post by Jessica Fick.
2. New Mexico
On November 30, a group of 6th, 7th and 8th graders from Van Buren Middle School headed to the Fidelity office in the Mesa Del Sol building south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. In a room full of Fidelity employees, community volunteers, members of the Air Force and even former state Senator Tom Rutherford, the kids participated in an evening of speed-networking.
Interim Executive Director of Citizen Schools New Mexico Liza Aguirre-Oviedo said, "The 6 Degrees of Albuquerque event unleashed and embraced many outstanding skills and talents of Citizen Schools students. Mobilizing over 30 volunteers representing a variety of professions, students were engaged and excited to showcase their newly developed networking skills. Connecting with each student, listening to their take-aways and teach-backs, was truly a most compelling experience."
The students were excited too. Here's what they had to say:
Christopher Robison, 8th Grade: "We were able to use our networking skills to meet new people and learn about jobs that we might be interested in."
Kathy Rojo, 8th Grade: "I learned that if you want to be successful in life you have to have a good educational background because all the jobs that promise you a future require knowledge from college."
Jose Hernandez, 8th Grade: "I had fun because I got to talk to professional people. They gave me advice for high school and college."
17 students from Patrick Henry Middle School in Houston, Texas had the unique experience of learning the power of networking from Citizen Schools Texas Executive Director Todd Litton and his brother Charles Litton who is a wealth manager and UBS.
Professionals from many industries gathered at the Center for Houston's Future's downtown offices for a networking event on December 4. The event was planned in coordination with the Center for Houston's Future as a way for their forum graduates to get involved in the community. The volunteers helped show students that education makes dreams come true.
Catherine Mosbacher, President and CEO of Center for Houston’s Future said, "Not only were our Forum and LeadershipNEXT alums impressed by the students’ interviewing and networking skills, they were delighted to learn how to impact the educational trajectory of our future leaders through Citizen Schools."
3. North Carolina
This fall students from Neal Middle School and Lowe's Grove Middle School in Durham, North Carolina, explored career pathways in the 6 Degrees apprenticeship led by volunteers from Fidelity. On November 29 they got to meet professionals from their dream careers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.
During 6 Degrees of Durham, the students had the chance to network one-on-one with professionals from careers to which they aspire. The evening ended in an open- networking reception where the students got to experience the energy and excitement of being in a room full of successful adults.
6 Degrees is an exciting experience that uses the power of networking to help students connect with professionals and learn about potential careers. You can support the 6 Degrees and other exciting initiatives at Citizen Schools by donating here.
Jessica Fick is the National Community Engagement Mananger for Citizen Schools. Abdullah knew he wanted to be a professional football player. On the very first day of the networking class I led with Cognizant employees, Joelle Quilla and Young Lee, at the Louise A. Spencer School in Newark, New Jersey, Abdullah told me about his dream to join the NFL.
During the class, called 6 Degrees, we wanted to help the students gain professional networking skills so that they can achieve any career in the future. I wasn't sure how to respond to Abdullah. I didn’t want to crush his dreams, but I also wanted to make sure he was setting himself up for educational success. What happened over the next ten weeks was nothing short of amazing...
I wanted to better relate to Abdullah and my other students so I did some research. I came across an article on the NFL players association website that explained that professional football players only play in the NFL for an average of three years. I knew I could use this to connect with Abdullah.
In the next class, I had a one-on-one conversation with him where I shared my newfound information. I then asked him, “If you are only playing in the NFL from ages 23 to 26, what do you want your career to be from 26-60?” This got his attention.
Throughout the semester Abdullah held on to his NFL dream, but he did a great job exploring other careers as well, like becoming an FBI agent or a mechanical engineer. Last week, Abdullah and the 6 Degrees students attended a networking session at Cognizant's office. Abdullah worked the room. He talked to every Cognizant employee in attendance.
I overheard a conversation that he had with a woman from Human Resources. He said, “How old do you have to be to work in this building?” She chuckled and said, “It isn’t about age. You have to get good grades, graduate, and go to college.”
He then went on to question her about all of the things he needs to do to work at Cognizant one day. He even asked if she would hire him and smiled when he got an affirmative response. I was so proud.
My co-teacher Joelle Quilla was thrilled as well. She said, "Education is a great equalizer. Cognizant’s workforce is about as diverse as they come, employing people from all over the world with different backgrounds, economic circumstances, cultures, and experiences. The common denominator is that all associates are educated, passionate and committed to working together towards a common goal. It would be easy to see Abdullah in this type of environment."
Abdullah had a Catalyst Moment this semester. After his trip to Cognizant, he wants to be a mechanical engineer and work for Cognizant one day. The 6 Degrees apprenticeship helped him learn the importance and power of education and he even discovered a new dream.
As the school year comes to a close, Citizen Schools is eager to stay connected to Citizen Teacher alumni and to create a community where they can interact and share their experiences. Fidelity Investments has joined in this effort and will host a focus group of twenty-five Citizen Teachers from Massachusetts in their “Think Space” on July 25th. Through discussions, attendees will establish their goals for a Citizen Teacher alumni community. This will be followed by an alumni mixer where a larger group will come together to mingle and continue the conversation.
This initiative is just one more in a string of successful events resulting from Citizen Schools’ longstanding relationship with Fidelity, our Lead National Partner for 8th Grade Academy. Fidelity also hosts annual 6 Degrees student networking events across the country, as well as our Executive Briefing. Nearly 700 Fidelity employees throughout the United States have donated 6,500 hours of their time to teach apprenticeships and prepare our students for success. For more information on this partnership, and information on Citizen Schools’ corporate partnerships across the country, click here.
Guest Post from Rob at ONGIG.com who attended our Citizen Schools California 6 Degrees Bay Area event in January. I was privileged to participate in a Citizen Schools event in which 8th graders from Oakland, California got to practice their networking skills with a handful of “adults” with jobs, like me.
The whole idea was to get these kids to practice networking skills: handing out their resumes, talking about their career aspirations. Awesome!
1) Kids Like To Smile More Than Adults
Even though these 8th graders were super-nervous, they were full of smiles. I wish us adults did that more often at our professional events.
2) Kids Can Be Quite Serious About Their Careers
This guy above (on the right) walked right up to me and said:
“You are an entrepreneur. I want to invent something and start my own business. Let’s talk.”
3) Networking Is Not Natural — It’s Downright Scary
I shook a lot of sweaty palms and most kids had a hard time looking me in the eye.
Once we broke the ice, they relaxed.
But it reminded me that we as humans are not born with the ability to network. We have to learn it.
4) Kids Dream Big But Also Within Reason
Kids I talked to said they wanted to be a:
- Professional soccer player or wrestler
- Fashion designer
- Videogame designer/tester
- Rocket Engineer
And the majority wanted to attend Stanford University for college!
5) Kids Work Hard & Are Committed To Getting The Job Done
These kids attend middle school until 6pm every night! They were here networking with me after 8+ hours of schooling.
Thanks again to Joe Ross, Nora Germano, Danielle Sharon and the rest of the Citizen Schools crew for helping to make this happen (and Minnie from Google for connecting us).
Bob Morgan, President of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, recently visited the Citizen Schools program at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and filmed our students in action (video below). On Tuesday, January 24, eighth-grade students participated in mock interviews with volunteers as part of a larger curriculum focused on preparing the students for high school, college and career success. These lessons culminate in a showcase event, 6 Degrees of Charlotte, during which the students will network with local business professionals to get advice on how to build and leverage their own network to achieve their future goals.
Do you have advice to share with them? Register for the February 2nd event today online - www.6degreesofcharlotte.org.
We would like to extend a special thanks to the volunteers who assisted with the mock interviews last Tuesday: Michael Juby, Parker Poe; Chuck Cocke & Nanelle Napp, Bank of America; and Adeola Fearon, MyOla Creations.
Last Friday, December the 2nd, at Fidelity Investments in Albuquerque, about 30 students from both Van Buren Middle School in Albuquerque, and De Vargas Middle School in Santa Fe, New Mexico met with 30 volunteers from Fidelity Investments (15), local law firms (and law students), local non-profits, a veterinarian clinic, Bank of America and the Pope Joy Hall Performance Center at the University of New Mexico.
Students and volunteers participated in Speed Networking, each student/volunteer spent 4 minutes conversing before the students rotated to a new volunteer. At the end the students put their business cards in a fish bowl drawing where three students won prizes donated by Fidelity. There was a 20 minute free mingle time to finish the event where students could talk further to someone they already met or introduce themselves to someone they did not get an opportunity to meet during the speed networking portion.
"The Citizen Schools 6 Degrees event was a great opportunity for students to ask uninhibited questions about various educational and career paths, and a great opportunity for volunteers to share what they do and where they've been...and witness the excitement and maturity of some of New Mexico's up-and-comers. Both groups learned a lot from each other and about themselves."
Leean Kravitz, the Director of Public Affairs at Fidelity concluded that,
“Participating in an event like 6 Degrees really brings home the impact of what Citizen Schools does to help students see their potential and plan for their future".