Making an Impact in Chicago Public Schools

Jenny Methling is a Strategy Manager at AOL and a Citzen Schools Illinois Citizen Teacher. This post was originally published on the Huffington Post Chicago Impact Blog.  AOL has partnered with Citizen Schools in communities around New York City and Boston, and this is the program's first year in Chicago, so several of us in the AOL Chicago office jumped at the chance to join in on the fun! Growing up, I always said I wanted to be teacher, but my hopes and dreams have changed a lot along the way. However, I love working with kids and a little part of me still has the desire to teach. Being a part of Citizen Schools has allowed me to reignite that passion, and it has come with some major payoffs.

AOL has two groups teaching at two different Chicago area public schools, and I've had the privilege of teaching and mentoring the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade kids in the "apprenticeship" program at Cesar Chavez in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.

Both groups are teaching "Brand You," an apprenticeship where students learn about the basics of branding and how to build your personal brand. Whereas a lot of kids in the U.S. prepare to apply for college in high school, these kids actually have to apply to high schools, so learning how to build your own brand is of importance at an earlier age.

Also, English is a second language to a lot of the kids, so teaching them new vocabulary words has also been a focus. It has been so cool to see the students grasp the concepts and use the vocabulary words that we've taught them. They are essentially learning the branding basics that I learned in my first two years of college -- and some of these kids are 12!

There is really no better way to describe the experience than saying it's super cool -- plain and simple. I spend two hours with these students every week, but it's amazing what they remember and how serious they take it. These kids are at school early in the morning until the early evening, but they got to choose to be in the Brand You apprenticeship, and you can tell how much they enjoy it.

I expected that they might build their personal brands as if they were applying for high school, college, or a typical teenage job, but these kids have some high aspirations and expectations for themselves -- which is awesome. They are so creative, and I hope they all pursue their hopes on the career front. There are kids that want to be baseball players, soccer players, video game developers, product developers at Lego, teachers, social workers, and police officers, and I hope they are all successful in becoming those things, because I honestly think they would all be great at their respective professions.

It's imperative that kids this age in low-income communities have programs like Citizen Schools -- it's surprising how early kids decide whether or not they will go to college or even complete high school. I wish I would have had a program like Citizen Schools when I was their age, just to get a glimpse of the real working world and seeing the payoff of a good education. I do hope that exposing these kids to young, successful professionals and bringing them to AOL's downtown office has encouraged them to stay focused on school and their future careers. I wish them all the best of luck and hope to see a few of them as future AOL employees!

Corporations Taking a Stand for Public Education

Jamal Cornelious is the Manager of Civic Engagement for Citizen Schools Illinois. This post was originally published on the Huffington Post Blog.  Chicago is known for being a city built on strong relationships and strategic alliances. The old saying "it's not what you know, but who you know" may be more relevant in Chicago than in any other city. So when I joined Citizen Schools, the "new nonprofit on the block," I expected an uphill battle to build relationships with the corporate community.

Citizen Schools partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities across the country. By drawing thousands more citizens into schools each year, we are promoting student achievement, transforming schools, and re-imagining education in America. We launched this fall in Chicago with two school partners, Chavez Multicultural Academic Centerin Back of the Yards and Walsh Elementary in Pilsen. Citizen Schools extends the learning day for more than 350 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders for three hours in the afternoon, Monday through Thursday. Program elements include academic supportcollege to career connections, and what I call our secret sauce -apprenticeships.

One of my first corporate meetings was with the AOL team in Chicago to recruit Citizen Teachers to lead our 10-week apprenticeships. I have to admit that I was nervous - it was my third week on the job! I remember spending hours preparing for my presentation and anticipating all of their questions and then the big day arrived. As I prepared to start my presentation to encourage them to volunteer with us, a member of the team said, "We're on board! We just want to know what we can teach." It was then I truly realized what an awesome opportunity I could offer the city's corporate sector. We were in a position to bring some of the most thoughtful, talented, and hard-working citizens of Chicago into the lives of middle school students.

I was pleasantly surprised to find this same level of interest with many of our corporate partners. Meeting after meeting, the response from the business community was overwhelming. Chicago professionals from leading regional banks and technology giants chose to make an investment in the city's future by sharing their passion and expertise with students. I talked to volunteers who stayed in the office extra hours because they were excited to plan out next week's lesson for their apprenticeship. Other volunteers chose to flex their hours or arrive to work early in order to spend a valuable 90 minutes per week teaching students about marketing or how to design a video game.

Here is just an example of the impact of Chicago's Citizen Teachers. AOL employees are teaching marketing and business. Google employees are teaching robotics and presentation skills. MB Financial employees are teaching entrepreneurship and sales. Cognizant employees are teaching business and mobile app design. Deloitte has 40 students visit their offices once a week to learn about healthy living and how to be a consultant. United pilots and operations managers are teaching students about aviation -- including a visit to the tarmac at O'Hare National Airport, the first visit there for many participants.

Seeing our students become young marketing professionals, entrepreneurs, investors and engineers has been a transformational experience for me as well. It is amazing to see students grow as individuals and potential professionals over the course of 10 weeks. I find myself constantly in awe of our students and our amazing volunteers and I am sure that each one of them will tell you that the investment they made in our kids future has already begun to pay dividends. How have you experienced the generosity and commitment of Chicago's companies in your community? Were you as excited as I was by their dedication and enthusiasm?

Citizen Schools Illinois: The Struggles and Satisfactions in the Back of the Yards

Jake Oher is a Citizen Schools Illinois Teacing Associate at Cesar Chavez Academy in Chicago. This post was originally published on the Huffington Post Blog. I came into the school year not knowing what to expect. As Citizen Schools Illinois was just about to enter into a partnership with Cesar Chavez Academy, I was a first time teacher who was anticipating the worst. During the first few weeks I experienced a couple bumps in the road, but a few things were made clear to me from day one.

First, Cesar Chavez Academy is a remarkable school that is led by an amazing group of devoted staff and teachers. I instantly knew that I was in the right place once I felt the warmth and love that everybody shares.

The second thing I noticed was that despite it being a launch year, the organization hired a strong group of individuals. Our friendships were almost instantaneous due to our shared passion for helping to close the achievement gap for students in Chicago. While my coworkers, atmosphere, and school are all great, the real reason I am working at Citizen Schools Illinois is for the chance to make a difference with students.

The students at Chavez are an amazing group of individuals who put in the work to advance themselves. Like all growing children, they still have some lessons they need to learn. However, for the most part, these kids care and respect themselves, their peers and the adults they interact with in their worlds. A few weeks into the school year, as the program began to pick up; it was already time to roll out our apprenticeship program.

The chance to be involved in an apprenticeship is what makes Citizen Schools such a unique and exciting program. Students are given the opportunity to work with and learn from experienced professionals across a wide variety of fields. As a Teaching Associate, I was paired up with one of our corporate partners, AOL, to teach a program called Brand You. The apprenticeship teaches students the basics of advertising while simultaneously teaching them to promote themselves with the same tools.

We wanted to challenge the students to think about themselves as lifelong brands who need to advertise their skills and abilities to help them get into a good high school and eventually a good college. We learned very quickly that the concept of advertising was new to these students. To start, we really had to drive home the basics. The three key concepts that we focused on were brand identity, brand promise and target audience. The basic definitions of these were helpful for the students, but it wasn't until after watching various TV and online advertisements that the students began to understand why commercials look the way they do -- i.e. the brand identity and promise -- and who advertisers are trying to speak to -- i.e. the target audience.

There were times when students would come into school, run up to me and say, "Have you seen the State Farm Commercial?" The target audience of that commercial is men ages 18-38 and their brand promise is that no matter what happens a State Farm agent will be there to support you. These types of interactions with the students are what teaching and mentoring are all about for me.

It was amazing to see my students engaged, taking information they had learned in their apprenticeship programs and applying it to real life examples. It became clear to me that because of this apprenticeship, some students are now looking at the world in a whole new way and words can't describe how great that makes me feel. I look forward to growing with Citizen Schools Illinois and helping develop the partnership that we have with AOL, because I have already seen the value it adds to our student's lives.

Key Learnings from Launching an Education Program in Chicago

Bryce Bowman is the Executive Director of Citizen Schools Illinois. This post was originally published on the Huffington Post Blog.  Seven years ago, while spending my days working in business in Chicago, I started mentoring Chicago Public School students and -- unknowingly -- headed down the road to launching Citizen Schools Illinois. Working with students at Wells, Manley and Marshall High Schools on Chicago's West Side was eye-opening and I began to learn and understand in a very micro way the intertwined strengths and challenges of the nation's third-largest school system, and, more importantly, the fulfillment that comes from opening an opportunity to a student that otherwise might not have been received. Then I read an article which described how only six in 100 Chicago Public Schools students will graduate from college by the age of 25, and to say I was overwhelmed was an understatement. From my time as a mentor I knew our students were smart, gritty and had what it takes to be successful. They just needed access to high quality schools and opportunities.

With that determined focus, I transitioned into education for a full time career three years ago. Today, as the Citizen Schools Illinois team and I are experiencing the highs and lows of a nonprofit launch in one of the largest cities in the country, we regularly turn to these personal stories. Citizen Schools is just establishing itself in Chicago and in many overlapping communities -- Chicago Public School partners, education reform, corporate community engagement, philanthropy and volunteer management. It is a lot to navigate, so I am pleased to share my greatest takeaways from the last nine months.

1. Make Friends 

Chicago has one of the country's strongest nonprofit sectors. According to the Donors Forum, in 2011 the nonprofit sector in Illinois accounted for more than 10 percent of jobs in the state, with the highest concentration in Chicago. One of the first things we did when considering launching in Chicago was to find and get to know organizations working in our arena. We learned about groups that were providing after-school tutoring, student internships and college prep. There was no one else providing the combination of extended learning time, academic support, 21st century skill-building, and hands-on learning opportunities offered by Citizen Schools. Once we launched, we did not stop building and cultivating those relationships. And we are not just friends with these other organizations -- we are partners, hoping to complement one another and work together to address a challenge larger than any of us. Six months into our launch, these relationships continue to be a priority. I am part of a group of executive directors that meets monthly to share resources, experiences, and advice in order to strengthen all of our groups.

2. Be Nimble

As a new organization -- even with a strong program model and impact data carried over from other cities -- it is essential to be flexible. This ranges from our workspace to our partnerships with schools and corporations. Our staff currently comes and goes from 1871, a co-working center for digital startups in the Merchandise Mart, finding a comfortable place to work and making connections with the next generation of innovators. I would never have imagined six months ago that this is where we would be based, but we were able to respond when the opportunity was presented.

Our school partners, Chavez Multicultural Academic Center in Back of the Yards and Walsh Elementary in Pilsen, have different needs and priorities dictated by their populations. We have been flexible with our extended learning time to meet their needs -- including more computer-based learning in some classrooms, adapting academic support to align with daytime lessons in others, and creating customized learning opportunities for students with special needs at both schools. We are confident in the impact of our extended learning time -- a study of our school partnerships in Boston showed we are capable of closing the achievement gap for students in an astounding three short years -- and that knowledge allows us to make the small adjustments necessary to address school's individual needs.

Our corporate and community partners return our flexibility in their own ways. For 10 weeks in the fall and another 10 weeks in the spring, corporate and community representatives become Citizen Teachers, leading our students in 90-minute apprenticeships that connect learning to career opportunities and start to close the inspiration gap. Partners from corporations - for example, AOL leaders teach marketing and finance -- re-arranged their schedules when we faced issues like our local teachers' strike, which impacted the fall apprenticeship calendar. And we are able to bring students to the apprenticeships when partners like Deloitte want to participate but need to have the students come to their offices.

3. Communicate Clearly and Often

You have to share what you are willing to do and not to do. As Patrick Lencioni so articulately points out in his book, "The Advantage," leaders must communicate clearly, they must do it often, and their team must know exactly where they stand so all team members feel empowered to make clear decisions with a focus on our stakeholders at all times. While we will not be perfect, if we have that clarity across our team, and that shared focus, we will build together rapidly and impact students.

4. Focus on Impact

Often in our team meetings, we debate strategic issues and when there are conflicting views, a team member will ask, "What is best for our kids?" Typically, the answer becomes very clear and we quickly rally around this decision. It is my job to lead with this view, and to never divert from this. In a launch organization, there is pressure to do everything -- and to do it all well. As any great business would say, focusing on our core competency is where we need to turn. We are a partner to schools, and we bring opportunities to students in order to help them achieve their dreams. That is our focus, and that is how we must make decisions on a weekly, daily, hourly and minute-to-minute basis.

Launching a new organization is never easy and there are many moving parts. In urban education, there are a lot of complex moving parts. It's part of the reason I love this work. But I hope our priorities help you think about your own organization's focus. What lessons have you learned launching a nonprofit?

Happy Back to School!

It’s our favorite time of the year, back to school! At Citizen Schools we are ramping up for an exciting 2012-2013 academic year of expanded learning time. We’ve got new Teaching Fellows, school partnerships, volunteer Citizen Teachers and bright new students to serve. This year we even have a brand new region, Illinois, to welcome! This upcoming year Citizen Schools will be serving 5,200 students at 31 sites in eight states. We are thrilled to announce our newest region, Illinois, and the two schools we will be serving there. Walsh Elementary and Cesar Chavez Elementary will both provide students with an Expanded Learning Time (ELT) program.  Executive Director of Citizen Schools Illinois, Bryce Bowman commented on the start of the year, “We are excited that the proven Citizen Schools educational model is being launched in the great city of Chicago. We cannot wait for our students to experience an awesome apprenticeship with volunteers from companies including Google, AOL and Cisco that will all begin in a few weeks!”

In addition to Chicago, we welcome six other new school partners across our network. In Texas, we are proud to announce that we will be partnering with Fondren Middle School. Fondren is part of the Houston Independent School District’s Apollo 20 program, which aims to boost student achievement in many of Houston’s struggling schools.

New York welcomes two new campuses to the Citizen Schools network this fall. Urban Assembly Unison School in Brooklyn, which focuses on college readiness, is opening its doors to students for the first time. Citizen Schools has been selected as its ELT partner serving its brand new 6th grade class. Citizen Schools is also new to West Prep Academy in West Harlem, where we will serve 140 6th and 7th graders, also under the ELT model.

New Jersey is geared up to launch two unique ELT programs this year. The Eagle Academy Foundation is launching its first school in Newark and is bringing in Citizen Schools as its first ELT partner. Eagle Academy is the first all boys school in the Citizen Schools network. Also new is the Newark Early College High School, which increases access to higher education for low income students. Citizen Schools will serve 200 of their boys and girls.

Lastly, Massachusetts welcomes the Joseph Lee School in Dorchester, which for the first time this fall, will serve 6th graders. With their expansion to the middle grades, the school has chosen Citizen Schools to launch an ELT day to serve their new 6th grade.

In preparation for the exciting growth and new partnerships, our 170 new Teaching Fellows have hit the ground running to launch the new school year with success. They’ve spent weeks in training and they are eager to get in the classroom and meet the students.

“In my second year of the fellowship, I am so excited to take on the challenge of a new school year. I am confident that with our team of diverse, passionate and empowering new Teaching Fellows, our Campus Directors and all of our first shift teachers, we are prepared and determined to further close the achievement and opportunity gaps,” said Rachel Lafferty, Second Year Teaching Fellow at the Dever McCormack School in Dorchester, MA.

That dream team also includes our brand new crop of volunteer Citizen Teachers who will lead 600 hands-on apprenticeships this year on electrical engineering, web design, mobile application development, poetry, cooking and more. Over the summer, our volunteers dedicated hours of their time to train, learn and prepare with us. They are ready to make an impact on closing the opportunity gap by exposing young minds to their successful careers.

Katelyn Doran, Video Game Design Citizen Teacher said, “I've been working with Citizen Schools for about four years, and every year I have seen the quality and quantity of apprenticeships improve dramatically. I cannot wait to see what our students accomplish this year through the amazing opportunities provided by Citizen Teachers across the nation!”

Lastly, we look forward to working with many middle school students across the country in the coming weeks. We can’t wait for them to achieve academic success, reach new heights in 21 st century learning and discover their dreams as they experience expanded learning time with Citizen Schools. Thank you for your unwavering support. We couldn’t make this upcoming school year happen without you. Happy Back to School!

The Perfect Pitch

Thanks to our friends at AOL, Citizen Schools was the topic of discussion at the Cause Marketing Forum in Chicago on May 31. Organizers devoted a session to "The Perfect Pitch," a reality-show-style contest to illustrate different styles of presenting causes to businesses looking for marketing partners. Three expert salespeople were given the task of persuading judges posing as insurance executives that they should team up with Citizen Schools as their non-profit of choice.

The event played a little like Goldilocks and the Three Bears-Dan Cohen from KaBOOM! stuck to the facts, Simon Mainwaring of We First waxed poetic, and consultant Mollye Rhea (the overwhelming favorite) zeroed in on why an education-focused cause would be a competitive advantage in the insurance market. (Read what Network for Good's Katya Andresen had to say about the session.)

After the contest, a breakout group broke down the lessons learned. Facilitator Stephanie Smirnov from DeVries PR shared insights about balancing emotion and information when connecting non-profits to companies. Members of the Citizen Schools staff from three different cities attended and took ravenous notes.

And nearly 500 conference participants from the corporate and non-profit worlds had a chance to ponder the unique connections Citizen Schools makes between the two.

Corporate Employees Stepping Up to Teach

This spring, over 1,500 volunteer Citizen Teachers are teaching nearly 500 apprenticeships across the country. About 60 percent of those apprenticeships are being taught by volunteers from partner organizations and almost 300 Citizen Teachers come from ten companies: Google, Cisco, Fidelity, Cognizant, Bank of America, EMC, AOL, Facebook, Microsoft, and Hewlett Packard. These corporate volunteers are teaching our students about electrical engineering, investing, creating and marketing products, the science in baking, documentary filmmaking, LED technology, and so much more.

In New York, 230 sixth grade students from East Harlem and the Bronx visit the Google NY headquarters each week. Google is offering a wide range of exciting apprenticeships this semester including “Gourmet Google,” which looks at the cultural, biological, and economic aspects of food.

In North Carolina, Cisco employees are leading the “Brand You/Networking 101” apprenticeship, which teaches students about key marketing and business concepts. Cisco is also offering a math focused apprenticeship, “Building Blocks with Math,” which focuses on the fundamentals of math and design through the creation of 2D and 3D scalable models.

These are just a few examples of the tremendous learning opportunities our students are exposed to thanks to the support of our partners and Citizen Teachers. Learn more about how your company can get involved.

AOL Expands Support

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since AOL burst onto the scene, introducing an unsuspecting world to the miracle of email, chat and the seemingly infinite resources provided on the web. Since then, AOL has innovated at a pace matched only by the internet itself, and now provides products and content to 250 million visitors looking for the latest news, art, music and more. You could call them pioneers, web gurus or media mavens – and you’d be right. But at Citizen Schools, we’re most proud to call them Citizen Teachers.

From one apprenticeship in NY just two years ago, to six in NY and MA today (and even more planned for the future), our partnership is growing in leaps and bounds. In addition to volunteer power, key financial support, and brand building campaigns, they’ve also introduced students to famous figures like AOL CEO Tim Armstrong and Arianna Huffington and Wyclef Jean.

When asked about why AOL partners with us, Blair Cobb, Director of Cause Marketing at AOL, said, “Citizen Schools enables us to utilize our most valuable asset, our people, to make a meaningful difference in our local communities. Empowering our employees to teach their passion with Citizen Schools has fostered an infectious culture of giving, prompting more and more employees to want to get involved. It is this enthusiasm and positive word of mouth that enabled our recent expansion to Boston, and I look forward to giving every AOL employee the opportunity to teach back with Citizen Schools.”

Citizen Schools and our students love AOL, and our stellar track record of providing high-impact volunteer opportunities ensures that the feeling is mutual!

Citizen Schools Video Airing in NYC Cabs

If you are in New York City this week, take a taxi and tune in to taxi TV!

Through June 22nd, watch for the video below on your NYC taxi TV, celebrating Citizen Schools and AOL's apprenticeship collaboration with Top Chef master Marcus Samuelsson.

AOL volunteers, along with Chef Samuelsson, taught Citizen Schools students in an "Incredible Edibles" apprenticeship about healthy eating, local foods, and the connection to their community.

Check out a student interview with Chef Samuelsson on AOL's Black Voices blog.

The Network Journal: Teaching Beyond Borders - Citizen Schools Work To Enhance The Learning Experience in NYC

Teaching Beyond Borders: Citizen Schools Work To Enhance The Learning Experience in NYC

The Network Journal

May 26, 2011

Citizen Schools recently teamed up with AOL and award-winning chef and author Marcus Samuelsson at Samuelsson's new restaurant Red Rooster Harlem to promote healthy living for kids. Click here to read the full story.

Student Interview with Famous Chef on Black Voices

New York City seventh grader Wahkeen Thomas has spent his Tuesdays this spring becoming an expert in local food. Now he's a published journalist too! Read Wahkeen's interview with top chef Marcus Samuelsson (of Aquavit and Red Rooster) on Black Voices now. The TV star and culinary master told Wahkeen about cooking for the president, discovering cooking at a young age, and why cooking makes a great career.  "I really liked what he had to say," writes the budding blogger. "Personally, I think Marcus is awesome!"

Wahkeen and his Citizen Schools classmates at Global Technology Prep in East Harlem have been taking an apprenticeship called "Incredible Edibles," led by six volunteers from AOL. They've been exploring what it means to eat healthy all semester.

On May 16, they'll be creating delicious three-course meal from local produce and serving it to family and friends at their WOW! event. You can sign up to be a taste-tester! Click here for event information.

Huffington Post: Arianna and AOL CEO Tim Armstrong Teach Journalism Class at Brooklyn Middle School

Arianna and AOL CEO Tim Armstrong Teach Journalism Class at Brooklyn Middle School

The Huffington Post

March 17, 2011

Huffington Post Founder and Editor-In-Chief Arianna Huffington and AOL CEO Tim Armstrong visited Citizen Schools students at the Urban Assembly Academy of Arts and Letters in Brooklyn to teach a class on journalism.

Watch the video

Tim Armstrong and Arianna Huffington Teach with Citizen Schools

On Monday, March 14th, Tim Armstrong, Chairman and CEO of AOL, and Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, visited Citizen Schools at the Urban Assembly Academy of Arts and Letters in Brooklyn to teach an afternoon class on journalism. Students learned about quality local news and wrote local news headlines that would represent their own communities and voices in a positive way. As part of an “interview clinic,” students also had the chance to interview the media experts themselves. "Our class with 6th through 8th graders at Brooklyn’s Academy of Arts and Letters was inspiring, as the children showed an eagerness to learn and a hunger to engage,” said Arianna Huffington. “That's why the work of Citizen Schools is so important. If given the opportunity to challenge themselves, even after the school day is over, school children will gladly take it. It’s my hope that all companies and organizations will work to expand such opportunities for children."

We hope to see more corporate leaders like Armstrong and Huffington in the classroom with us this year! Read the press release for more details and watch a 2-minute video to get a first-hand look at the fun:

A quote from one student in the class: "I have big goals for myself and sometimes gets discouraged, but hearing about how they had become successful was encouraging and inspiring to me.”

PRESS RELEASE: Media Leaders Share Expertise with NYC Middle School Students


Media Business and Journalism Leaders Share Expertise with New York City Middle School Students

AOL’s Tim Armstrong and The Huffington Post Media Group’s Arianna Huffington Visit Brooklyn Middle School to Teach Journalism

New York, NY – March 16, 2011 – On Monday, March 14, Tim Armstrong, Chairman and CEO of AOL, and Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, visited the Urban Assembly Academy of Arts and Letters in Brooklyn to teach an afternoon class on journalism. The new business partners were connected to students through Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit organization that partners with public middle schools across the country to expand the learning day and brings professionals into the classroom to share hands-on learning experiences with students in low-income communities.

Students learned about quality local news and use local news headlines to represent their own communities and voices. As part of an “interview clinic,” students also had the chance to interview the media experts themselves.

The afternoon session kicked off a “30-Day Service Challenge” encouraging all AOL and Huffington Post employees worldwide to find ways to give back to their local communities. Employees will be volunteering in their local communities – from preparing food for people in need in Los Angeles to dancing with elderly nursing home residents in New York City. Over the past few years, dozens of AOL employees have volunteered with Citizen Schools, teaching twelve-week “apprenticeship” courses to middle school students across New York City. Topics have included marketing and branding, robotics, journalism and cooking. Monday’s “mini-apprenticeship” will help expose even more AOL and Huffington Post employees to the opportunity to share expertise and passion with middle school students through Citizen Schools. In fact, Arianna Huffington has signed up to teach three more times in the coming months.

"Our class with 6th through 8th graders at Brooklyn’s Academy of Arts and Letters was inspiring, as the children showed an eagerness to learn and a hunger to engage,” said Arianna Huffington. “That's why the work of Citizen Schools is so important. If given the opportunity to challenge themselves, even after the school day is over, schoolchildren will gladly take it. It’s my hope that all companies and organizations will work to expand such opportunities for children."

“Citizen Schools is thrilled to welcome Tim Armstrong and Arianna Huffington to the classroom,” said Nitzan Pelman, Executive Director of Citizen Schools New York. “Working directly with experts from a wide range of fields helps our students connect what they are learning in school with the real world, sparks new interests, and inspires motivation for our students.”

About Citizen Schools Citizen Schools is a national non-profit organization that partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for low income children across the country. Citizen Schools uniquely mobilizes thousands of adult volunteers to help improve student achievement by teaching skill-building apprenticeships after school. The organization’s programs blend these real-world learning projects with rigorous academic and leadership development activities, preparing students in the middle grades for success in high school, college, the workforce, and civic life.

About AOL AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL) is a leading global Web services company with an extensive suite of brands and offerings and a substantial worldwide audience. AOL's business spans online content, products and services that the company offers to consumers, publishers and advertisers. AOL is focused on attracting and engaging consumers and providing valuable online advertising services on both AOL's owned and operated properties and third-party websites. In addition, AOL operates one of the largest Internet subscription access services in the United States, which serves as a valuable distribution channel for AOL's consumer offerings.


Huffington Post/Arianna Huffington: The Power of Giving Back

Biz Stone and the Power of Giving Back

The Huffington Post

March 14, 2011

The newly formed Huffington Post Media Group at AOL launched its "30-Day Service Challenge" this week. As part of the call to action, the Huffington Post's Arianna Huffington and AOL's Tim Armstrong visited and taught a journalism class at the Citizen Schools campus at the Urban Assembly Academy of Arts and Letters in Brooklyn. 

Arianna Huffington wrote a blog post about the challenge and mentioned Citizen Schools. Click here to read the full story.

From A NY student’s perspective: Ellean’s AOL apprenticeship

“Over the last year, I have taken two apprenticeships with AOL and they have taught me how to design robots and how to create blogs. I love the way that people come from their offices and spend time with us each week. We are so lucky as we're exposed to many new things and I'm learning things I wouldn't have been taught otherwise. For the Blog WOW!, we presented our blogs and I talked about the fact that blogging was growing and becoming a huge source of media. I made a lot of people laugh and it was the first time in my life that so many people paid attention to me. My Citizen Schools teacher, Ms. Thompson, said I was really good, maybe even the best. I was able to present something that I worked hard on. It made me feel so proud and it gave me the confidence to know that I COULD be a better student and I could achieve at a much higher level.


I am starting to make major shifts as a 7th grader. I'm not fighting anymore, I'm paying attention to my school work, and I'm thinking a lot more about my future. My dad used to mess with me and told me that I was bad and wouldn't be anybody but my new experiences have lead me to believe that I WANT to be somebody and not a nobody. Not only do I want to be somebody but I want to be a leader. I don't want to be the kind of leader that tells people what to do, but rather the kind of leader that leads by example like Rosa Parks. Rosa stood up for what she believed in and she fought to keep her seat on that bus. My vision is to make a change within my own community and to stop people from bullying each other and start treating each other with respect and kindness.”  NY apprentice Ellean, 7th grade

The Boom Box: Wyclef Jean Spends Afternoon with Middle School Students

Wyclef Jean Spends Afternoon with Middle School Students

The Boom Box

December 15, 2010

Grammy Award winning artist, Wyclef Jean visited  Citizen Schools' students at the Urban Assembly Academy for Arts and Letters in Brooklyn as part of the "Press Pass" apprenticeship taught by AOL volunteers.  Students learned about journalism and got the chance to interview Wyclef.Watch the video