Volunteering with Citizen Schools means you get as much as you give.

Volunteering with Citizen Schools means you get as much as you give.

Mehmet Kanik embodies all the enthusiasm you would expect from a first-time volunteer. Not only has he brought his work from Research at MIT into the classroom, he also draws energy and confidence from the students he teaches. Mehmet is conducting research and was recently published in Science Magazine, for the same fiber-based artificial muscle samples he brought into the classroom.

Director of Instructional Design, Lauren tell us, the Joy in the Work is in the Connections you Make

Director of Instructional Design, Lauren tell us, the Joy in the Work is in the Connections you Make

Here at Citizen Schools, the work that we do everyday would not be possible without our amazing employees. All who go above and beyond their everyday call of duty to ensure that our young people, schools and communities get the best that they deserve. Each month, we are going to spotlight one amazing Citizen Schools employee. Here is our first one, Lauren Chamberlain

Working Alongside Teachers, Volunteers Help Bring Real-World Learning Experiences to the Classroom

Working Alongside Teachers, Volunteers Help Bring Real-World Learning Experiences to the Classroom

Amy Hoffmaster, Managing Director of Program Innovation got the chance to sit down and chat with Melissa Arellano, who is a 7th grade science teacher at Sedgefield Middle Schools in North Carolina about her experience working in the Catalyst pilot program.

Engineering the Future

emc1Your typical middle school student, when asked about her career plans, might tell you she wants to be a musician or an astronaut. Maybe a marine biologist. Citizen Schools’ students are a little bit different, though. On a recent trip to Lowe’s Grove Middle School in North Carolina, Jerry Diehl, Principal Test Engineering Lead at EMC and a Citizen Teacher, asked that classic question. What do you want to be when you grow up? Marcus, an eighth grader, declared “I’m going to be an electrical engineer at EMC!”

Marcus is one of a group of students engaged in an electrical engineering apprenticeship through Citizen Schools, and he has been for three semesters strong. EMC volunteers have taught this apprenticeship for nine consecutive semesters. Although electrical engineering is not a subject typically taught in middle school, EMC helps students make the critical connection that their education can lead to exciting careers in the future. With hands-on lessons in which students build solar cars, sound monitors, light displays and more, they get hooked on learning and hooked on the possibility of pursuing a career at a company like EMC.

Diehl said, “The members of this team volunteer their time for this apprenticeship for various reasons. For me, it satisfies my desire to do something impactful for today’s youth. Citizen Schools’ focus on middle school aligns with the time when a student needs to be educated about careers. They aggressively champion STEM initiatives and provide the tools necessary for success. Citizen Schools’ core values are exactly what attracted me to become a Citizen Teacher!”

emc3Capitalizing on this critical time in a student’s education, the team builds upon their self-written curriculum every semester. Constantly adapting it to make it more engaging, they also find ways to make key connections to college, and to the preparation that can begin as early as  middle school. With each semester, they become even better mentors --finding new ways to get the kids excited. No wonder Marcus wanted to come back again and again!

“My favorite part is building a bond with the kids,” commented Diehl, “Each student is different and we design our program with that in mind. I would have to say that the greatest moment occurs when you see that look in students’ eyes and know that you have connected with them.”

We call “that look” a moment of discovery. It’s when a light bulb turns on, and a student makes a life changing connection. Jerry Diehl and the team of volunteers from EMC’s electrical engineering apprenticeship are ensuring that these moments of discovery aren't few and far between, but a constant part of their classroom experience. Thanks to them, young Marcus and many others have found their calling.

Once a Citizen Schools student like Marcus, a young man named MacCalvin Romain also found his calling years ago in an EMC apprenticeship in Boston. He is now an Associate IT Business Consultant at EMC, a dream he discovered as a 6th grade student who learned to love computers.

EMC won't stop at MacCalvin and Marcus. With their commitment to inspiring students, I think we’ll be seeing many more bright young engineers at EMC in the future.


Cisco Connected Women Inspire Girls to Pursue STEM Careers

This March, in honor of National Women’s History Month, we are celebrating the incredible women who have made contributions to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields-- like Kimone Gooden and Denise Lombard of the San Jose chapter of the Cisco Connected Women. This employee resource group contributes to a strategic effort to enhance Cisco's success in hiring and developing talented female employees, and support Cisco's goal to achieve a more diverse, globally competitive workforce. Kimone and Denise are co-leads of the Connected Women Outreach Pillar, which focuses on increasing awareness and excitement of STEM careers in middle school and high school girls. When they were introduced to Citizen Schools, which aims to close the opportunity gap for under-privileged middle school students, it was a perfect fit.

Many meetings at high technology companies are still populated by a majority of men versus women, something Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, talks about openly in her newly released book, Lean In.  The Connected Women of San Jose, Outreach Pillar at Cisco are working tirelessly to expose and encourage young women to explore the vast  opportunities in technology related careers that they are more than capable of achieving.

Denise Lombard

Cisco is a long-time national partner of Citizen Schools-- leading hands-on “apprenticeship” classes on topics such as networking, robotics, marketing and more. Denise said, “When I heard about Cisco’s strong  relationship with Citizen Schools, I immediately thought, what an excellent  partnership opportunity for our team.   The Citizen Schools program provides the structure, support system and platform for us to reach out and make a positive difference to these bright, capable young women.”

Citizen Schools also allows the group to work directly with the population that the Connected Women want to target. “In the past we worked with schools in more privileged areas. Most of the girls had a newer model phone than I did. They were already very knowledgeable about technology and most of their parents held successful positions in the tech industry. Citizen Schools allows us to work with girls who don't have the same exposure. We have the chance to bring them up to the same level,” Denise said.

Cisco Apprenticeship Students

The young ladies in the Cisco apprenticeship class are well on their way to becoming the next generation of world class women in technology.   Already, in the first few weeks of the class, the girls have learned about the variety of STEM careers available from fashion, to music, to mobile phone application development.

They even got to visit the Executive Briefing Center at Cisco and experience the power of technology through the Teleconference system. On their exploration to Cisco, the girls were introduced to a panel of career networking women.

"It gave them awareness that so many opportunities exist for women which may not have been apparent to them before. They had so many questions. I could see the light bulbs going off in their heads." Kimone said.

Kimone Gooden

Throughout the class the girls will meet women leaders who are experts in a number of topics including social media, communications, branding, engineering and project management. Kimone said, "They've already been exposed to ten different professional women since the apprenticeship started. Each week we introduce a new group of volunteers. We've seen the students connect with the women personally, making the experience even more real and accessible."

The Connected Women of Cisco are dispelling a long standing misconception. “Some women still have the perception that they’re not as smart and that they can’t do some of things that men do, such as work in technology fields. I tell them we’re just as smart and we’re all capable,” Denise said.

Once a week, for 10 weeks, these women are carving out a couple of hours of their already demanding schedules to make sure that young girls from low-income communities know that the door is wide open for them.

Special thanks to the women who made this apprenticeship experience happen: Chermaine Garrett, Christine Vaeth, Denise Lombard, Jessica Williamsen, Joy Lavigne, Kimone Gooden, Marlene Baca, Natasha Taymourian, Penny Dodd, Travis Sterne, Sara Steffen, Vandana Agarwal, Ganesh Iyer, Yani Kadar, Vandana Agarwa, Negisa Taymourian, Ganesh Iyer, Jessica Willamsen, Anna Hopper, Sarina Surrette, Natasha Taymourian, Kati Dahm, Aline Ekmekji

Mobile Phones: They're Not Just for Games

Scott Heggen is a Ph.D. student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a volunteer Citizen Teacher at Citizen Schools North Carolina.  Imagine a group of sixth graders, armed with mobile phones and a desire to help their community, making bold changes to their world all through the power of the scientific method. No need to imagine; this is exactly what they do in the Mobile Application Development (MAD) Science apprenticeship at Citizen Schools. The kids get out of their seat and into their community, and instead of making them learn science, we let them learn science by doing science.

scott heggenMAD Science stemmed from citizen science, a movement where volunteers act as data collectors in a real-world scientific study. The idea originated out of the need for large-scale data collection to understand big phenomena such as bird migratory patterns, global warming, and even evolution.

As with anything large-scale, the cost and complexity of the system often hinders these types of research. However, with today’s advances in mobile technology, this research is now possible, and the tools to collect the data are in the pocket of nearly every person on the planet: the mobile phone.

There are approximately six billion (and rapidly growing) mobile phones around the world, each with a wealth of sensors embedded in them: cameras, camcorders, microphones, GPS, and accelerometers, to name a few. Six billion data collectors armed with the tools necessary to provide meaningful scientific data sounds like a golden opportunity for science, but one challenge remains: actually getting people to volunteer to collect data.

mad science1For the past year, I have had the great opportunity to work with the best volunteers out there: the students at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina. Through the Citizen Schools apprenticeship program I was able to do things scientists have been hoping to do for years, and I did it with 12-year-olds. We created a mutually beneficial relationship where citizen scientists have a new source of data, and students are gaining real-world knowledge of the importance of science.

In MAD Science, students learn how to conduct the scientific method, but the benefits extend beyond science. By using mobile phones, the students are also engaging with technology in a productive manner. They see a mobile phone as more than a toy; they see it as a sensor-rich computer with the ability to help their community become a better place to live.

Through the apprenticeship program at Citizen Schools, science and technology become accessible, engaging and a lot fun. By applying the deep domain-specific knowledge they gain through their citizen science project, they learn to apply general science and technology knowledge into other areas of STEM, including data-collection best practices, data analysis, scientific methods, and other areas specific to their projects. Students are experiencing science in a hands-on environment, and seeing how it affects their surroundings, and how technology plays a key role in their ability to conduct meaningful science.

So the next time you see a kid with a smart phone in her hand, don't assume she's playing Angry Birds. She might be making your world a better place to live.

To learn more about Scott Heggen and citizen science, you can read his article published on the Association of Computing Machinery's digital magazine, Interactions. To find out how you can bring science to life for students, click here. 


What I Learned by Teaching Robotics

Jared Noll is a first year Teaching Fellow at Eagle Academy in Newark, New Jersey. I knew virtually nothing about robots when I was assigned to support a group of volunteers in leading a robotics class at Eagle Academy in Newark, New Jersey. I felt like I had little to offer the volunteers who were relying on me.  Needless to say, the first few weeks of the class were pretty stressful.

2012-12-12 04.38.00 (1)Luckily, the four volunteer Citizen Teachers from Cognizant were there to guide me through the material, just as I was there to guide them through being in front of the classroom. Every Wednesday after our class they stayed late to discuss the following week’s plans, and how to best lead the lesson. Even though I wasn't 100% clear on the material, I was confident that our lessons would go smoothly because we worked so well together.

After some time, I got into the swing of things. Robotics became easier to teach when I saw how much the students loved working with the Citizen Teachers and how well the Citizen Teachers knew the material. As soon as they walked in the door, the kids became more focused and willing to get to work. They were excited to learn about engineering and programming. I fed off of their enthusiasm.

The real fun began when the students started actually building the robots. They were broken up into groups, and each was assigned a role to perform to keep everyone on task and working. While most of the kids loved the apprenticeship class, there were some students who were less than thrilled with their roles.

2012-12-12 05.17.18One student, Wilkins, refused to work with his fellow students on the robot, and spent a few classes moping and unwilling to contribute. When I talked to him about it, he simply told me that building a robot was boring, and that he wanted to be moved to another apprenticeship. After some coaxing, he agreed to work with a different group on their robot. By the end of the semester, he was begging me to let him sign up for Robotics again in the spring.

To see a student change so much in just a few weeks and to show so much pride in his work is a tremendous feeling. Teaching an apprenticeship certainly isn’t easy, but like most everything else in life, hard work pays off. The Citizen Teachers I got to work with taught me a great deal about the subject matter, and in turn I was able to help show them how to manage a classroom. It showed me the real impact that Citizen Schools has on kids by connecting young educators with professionals from the community to teach students incredible topics-- like robotics. I learned that the volunteers and the Citizen Schools Teaching Fellows have much to offer each other, and that when everyone is in sync-- the students  will be inspired.

You can join the movement to inspire kids too. Even if you've never taught before, your Teaching Fellow partner will be there to show you the ropes. You'll both learn something together. Sign up today. 

How to Avoid Falling Off the School Cliff

A recent Gallup Poll article gives us one more thing to worry about: falling off the school cliff. According to the report, students become less and less engaged with every school year. The data shows that in elementary school nearly 80% of children are engaged in their classes. By middle school that engagement decreases to 61% of students and then plummets to 44% by high school. Brandon Busteed, Executive Director of Gallup Education says, "The drop in student engagement for each year students are in school is our monumental, collective national failure." So what can we do to fix it?

1. Build community partnerships.

Part of the problem is a lack of opportunity for kids to spread their creative and entrepreneurial wings. Gallup shows that 45% of kids from grades 5-12 want to start a business when they grow up. But shockingly, only 5% spend more than one hour a week exposed to a real business.

So let's bring the businesses to them. At Citizen Schools, 31 middle schools bring in professionals from big businesses like Google, Bank of America, Fidelity and Cognizant to give the kids the exposure and inspiration they need in middle school to get them excited about their futures. By leading hands-on classes called "apprenticeships" the kids aren't just being exposed to potential careers, they're doing them by investing in stocks, building robots and editing blogs. 80% of Citizen Schools students who experience a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) related apprenticeship report being interested in pursuing a career in STEM compared to only 33% of 8th graders who are interested in STEM careers nationally. How's that for boosting engagement?

2. Focus on the middle grades.

Middle school is absolutely critical for keeping kids engaged. As kids transition from elementary school where they are typically most engaged, keeping them on a path to success is imperative. According to research by Robert Balfanz in his Putting Middle School Grades Students on the Graduation Path report, the first year of middle school is the "make or break year" when the largest number of students develop potential indicators for dropping out.

The silver lining there is that his findings also show that 6th graders who develop "off-track" indicators tend to stay in school for at least 5 more years-- allowing time to reinvest in them and change their trajectories. By capitalizing on those important middle grades, those students can be re-engaged and put back on track.

3. Expand the learning day. 

It's not easy to give students the inspiration and exposure they need in the confinements of a traditional school day. Expanded learning time (ELT) allows schools more time to enrich and re-engage students by bringing in a second shift of fresh-faced educators. Kids who don't necessarily have the chance to play on sports teams, take piano lessons or join the chess club still need the opportunity to get their feet wet in trying new things. By adding on time at the end of the school day and using it wisely-- schools have the chance to reinforce learning through hands-on projects.

But does it work? In a recent New York Daily News article, Executive Director of Citizen Schools New York Nitzan Pelman pointed to the impressive results of the beginning stages of a three-year ELT pilot initiative. Over two years, Citizen Schools partner schools averaged a 10.4 percentage point gain in proficiency on math and English standardized tests. That meets the U.S. Department of Education standard for successful turnaround in three years. And it was done in only two!

Brandon Busteed says, "For each year a student progresses in school, they should be more engaged, not less." And they can be. We've seen it happen. Find out how can you help change education in America.

Press Release: Citizen Schools Announces Secured Match Funds for U.S. Department of Education Grant

Contact: Holly Trippett, Citizen Schools, cell: 301 452-3904




Citizen Schools Announces Success Securing Match Funding for U.S. Department of Education Investing in Innovation Grant

Funding Will Support Nonprofit’s Work Connecting High-Need Students to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Professionals


Boston, MA – January 7, 2013 – Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit organization that partners with middle schools to lengthen the school day for children in low-income communities, announced today that the organization has secured match funding that will guarantee a nearly $3 million “Investing in Innovation”(i3) award from the U.S. Department of Education.

This comes as part of the third round of the federal i3 competition, which will award funding to expand innovative practices designed to improve student achievement. Twenty potential grantees were announced in November and required to secure matching funds in order to receive federal funding.

Citizen Schools’ proposal, called Closing Inspiration and Achievement Gaps in STEM with Volunteer-Led Apprenticeships, describes the organization’s plan to recruit, train, and support thousands of volunteers to lead apprenticeships that build students’ skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  This 3.5-year project, the cornerstone of Citizen Schools’ Catalyst initiative, will hone a promising innovation with the potential to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups who are prepared for advanced education and careers in science and technology fields.

Citizen Schools submitted a proposal in the “Development” category. Rigorously trained peer reviewers vetted more than 650 applications in the Development category and selected Citizen Schools among only 12 finalists, granting the application the highest score among STEM-focused projects. Development grants provide up to $3 million to support promising projects with high potential for impact on student achievement. Development grantees must secure private matching funds equivalent to at least 15 percent of their federal award.

Today, Citizen Schools announced that the following funders have signed on to invest a total of $775,000 in the project and secure the federal funding:

  • Cognizant
  • Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation
  • Finnegan Family Foundation
  • S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation
  • AT&T Foundation
  • Carnegie Corporation of New York

(Please note: Although the investments listed above have secured $3 million in federal funding, Citizen Schools will continue to invite additional investors to sign on as i3 match funders in order to fully implement the organization’s i3 project.) 

Since 1995, Citizen Schools has brought over 20,000 volunteers from businesses and community organizations into middle schools nationwide. Volunteers lead apprenticeships where they work under the supervision of Citizen Schools staff to teach students about a wide variety of professions, with a growing focus on professions in the STEM fields. Students work with volunteers on hands-on projects, such as building solar cars and robots, programming computers and Android applications, and designing video games.

"There is a growing class-based achievement gap in education and STEM education specifically, and it is driven by an opportunity chasm between the authentic learning experiences of lower and upper income students," said Eric Schwarz, co-founder and CEO of Citizen Schools. "At the same time, millions of scientists and engineers are sitting on the sidelines, totally uninvolved in the lives of children but capable of hosting interns, co-teaching classes, and teaching hands-on apprenticeships in the extended day hours.  This i3 grant will enable Citizen Schools to prove that addressing the opportunity chasm in STEM -- by providing lower income children with multiple chances to make cool things with successful STEM professionals -- is the surest way to eliminate the achievement gap."

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the demand for professionals in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math is projected to dramatically outpace the supply over the coming decades, with over two million anticipated STEM job openings by 2018 and a serious shortage of qualified college graduates to fill them. At the same time, a Lemelson-MIT survey found that a majority of teenagers may be discouraged from pursuing STEM careers because they do not know anyone who works in these fields and they do not understand what people in these fields do. The problem is particularly acute for populations that have been historically underrepresented in STEM fields. While earning a STEM degree is one important milestone in pursuing a STEM career, just 2.2 percent of Hispanics and Latinos, 2.7 percent of African Americans, and 3.3 percent of Native Americans and Alaska Natives have earned a first university degree in the natural sciences or engineering by age 24.

There are fewer than 250,000 math and science teachers in the United States. The population of working scientists and engineers is twenty times larger – five and a half million people with content expertise and authentic knowledge of STEM career pathways, but generally no connection to the low-income children who need exactly what they have to offer. Through Citizen Schools’ apprenticeships, students work hand-in-hand with those professionals on meaningful projects. In a recent student survey, 80 percent of middle school students taking Citizen Schools apprenticeships with Google expressed interest in pursuing a STEM college major or career.  This compares with data from ACT, showing only one-third of 8th graders nationally are interested in STEM majors and careers.

“Cognizant is proud to support Citizen Schools’ i3 grant proposal, a program that shares our commitment to increasing the number of students from underrepresented groups who are excited about advanced education and careers in STEM disciplines,” said Mark Greenlaw, Vice President of Sustainability and Educational Affairs at Cognizant, and a member of Citizen Schools National STEM Advisory Council. “We strongly believe that STEM professionals can play an important role in sparking a child’s interest in STEM through mentoring and teaching hands-on apprenticeships.”

About Citizen Schools

Citizen Schools is a national nonprofit 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. 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.

Founded in Boston in 1995, Citizen Schools has grown into a national network of thirty-one partner schools serving over 5,300 students in low-income communities across eight states.  For more information, visit




The Opportunity of an Expanded School Day

What could you do with 300 hours of extra time? In five states – Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Colorado, and Tennessee - select school districts decided to add 300 hours of time to the school day and year. At Citizen Schools, we see the benefits of a longer school day every day, but there are many ways that schools can add time. Barnett Berry, the founder and president of the Center for Teaching Quality, and Rick Hess, the Director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, recently reflected on the potential change that expanded learning time (ELT) can have on students, schools, and communities if it is utilized in strategic ways. Hess and Barnett, believe, “ELT offers a window of opportunity to break the bonds of antiquated policies, calcified school organizations, and time-honored yet artless teaching roles.”

How can we use the opportunity of a longer school day to rethink the way students learn and are taught? Hess and Barnett call out four keys elements.

  • Re-engineer the role of the teacher: At Citizen Schools our teachers look a little different than what you might be used to. We engage hundreds of young educators who have joined the ranks of AmeriCorps and lead "teams" of students in the afternoon hours. They guide students and "Citizen Teachers" through hands-on learning projects on topics beyond the basics such as robotics, crime scene investigation and electrical engineering.
  • Rethink K-12, higher education, and community-based-organization resources: At Citizen Schools we think it's possible to re-imagine the learning day for middle school students. Middle school is a critical time in a child's life and by bringing in community partners such as Bank of America, Fidelity, and Cognizant, we try to take the best of what American cities have to offer and bring them in the classroom.
  • Reallocate resources to fuel innovation: In classrooms across the country Citizen Schools students are experiencing moments of discovery. Thanks to resources from i3 and Catalyst, we have the ability to use the extra school time to promote innovation and spark a passion for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
  • Reframe accountability to focus on the spread of teaching expertise: Citizen Schools relies on the expertise of all kinds of teachers-- those highly trained in behavior management and classroom instruction and those from areas outside of schools. By bringing traditional teachers and professionals from all sorts of careers together, our students are getting opportunities they otherwise wouldn't.

Tiffany Cooper Gueye, CEO of Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL), has her own take on what can make expanded school time successful for students, teachers, and schools. “Time has to be high quality for it to be effective. It has to reach the students who need it most -- those who are struggling academically and who lack educational opportunities and support outside of the school. And, it has to be sustainable.”

At Citizen Schools, we see the need for these elements and necessities in our daily work during a longer school day. By working with children in low-income communities, we strive to bring opportunities and resources to students who may not have received them otherwise. Our program redefines what it means to be an educator during after school hours with AmeriCorps Teaching Fellows, who provide academic mentoring and career coaching, and Citizen Teachers, professionals who volunteer their time to teach something they are passionate about.

We hope that this is only the beginning of an extended school day for the students who need additional resources and quality experiences most.

Inspiring Scientists with Cubist

At age 12, did you ever watch bacteria grow, or see a rocket launch, or analyze finger prints in a crime scene? Thanks to Cubist Pharmaceuticals, our students at Citizen Schools Massachusetts aren't your average 12-year-olds. They're scientists. Let's see what they've learned over the years... For the past four years employees from Cubist Pharmaceuticals have been leading Boston area middle school students on a path to discovery.

Rob Perez, President and Chief Operating Officer of Cubist, and Citizen Schools Massachusetts board member, said, "What I love about Citizen Schools is it not only extends learning time, but it also turns kids on to the opportunities available to them by having Citizen Teachers, like people from Cubist, coming in and showing them what they do through lots of different apprenticeships...It opens up a possibility they never knew existed." Check out this great video to hear more about how Cubist helps make dreams come true for Citizen Schools students.

The Citizen Schools and Cubist partnership began in the spring of 2009 with former Vice President of Regulatory Affairs at Cubist Dave Mantus (now a Citizen Schools Massachusetts Board member) who taught a group of students the basics of physics through rocket science. Check out Dave and his students in action as they fire a vortex canon:


Two years later Cubist employees took on a new challenge, leading an apprenticeship called Cybersurgeons, in which middle schoolers became medical doctors-- studying viruses and learning how to diagnosis and treat patients.

This fall, Cubist led an impressive three apprenticeships! In Ice Scream, You Scream, young ice cream enthusiasts learned the science behind their favorite treat. Down the hall in Brand You, the kids created their own personal brands and learned the business of advertising.

In another Boston classroom students experienced Crime Scene Investigation, where they learned how science is used to solve crimes. 6th grader Remy loved the class so much he even wished they could extend the class time to two hours! If you can make a child wish for more time in class, you know you're doing something right.

Thanks to incredible partners like Cubist, science is fun. Best of all, in every Cubist classroom, young students are doing more than have fun while learning. They're experiencing what it's like to be a scientist and discovering that they can become scientists too.

Reflections from 2012

Eric Schwarz is the Co-Founder and CEO of Citizen Schools. 2012 began with numerous trips to Chicago, where I visited a school across the street from the United Center (where the Bulls play), took the El, had several cold (and yes "Windy") walks down Michigan Avenue, and got to know a great Italian restaurant at O’Hare airport. The year also saw an increased Citizen Schools focus on STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math), cool partnerships with the White House on several STEM projects, the addition of new corporate partners and board members, and some impressive impact results.

It’s been an exciting year with lots to celebrate, so as we enter this holiday season I want to say thank you to everyone who makes Citizen Schools such a special place, and such a force for expanded opportunity.

1. Launches.

All of those trips to Chicago led to the Citizen Schools expansion to Illinois where we now provide programming at two partner schools-- one in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, and one in Pilsen/Little Village. Chicago organizations such as A Better Chicago, AOL, MB Financial, Deloitte, Google, Cognizant, Cisco and United Airlines embraced our mission, stepping out of the office and into the classroom to impact public education.

Continuing down that road of new beginnings, in October we launched a bold three-year initiative called Catalyst, which will mobilize 7,500 professionals in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields to lead apprenticeships in middle schools across the country. With support from partners Google, Cognizant and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, thousands of students will be able to experience a catalyst moment– that spark of discovery that ignites a lasting passion for learning. As the need for improvement in STEM education becomes increasingly apparent, Citizen Schools is at the forefront of impacting systemic change, working closely with the White House to replicate our Citizen Teacher and Teaching Fellow models.

2. Partnerships.

This fall we welcomed a new National Leadership Partner, the Walmart Foundation. Their investment will help us reach even more students and boost achievement in reading and math over the next two years. Walmart has a deep commitment to improving education in America, donating more than $50 million to fund education initiatives in 2011.

In November, Citizen Schools was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a top applicant in the Investing in Innovation (i3) Competition. This recognition speaks to the growing belief in our ELT model and demonstrates the powerful impact of private-public partnerships on education. Pending a 15% match from the private sector this $3 million grant will jump start momentum for the Catalyst Initiative.

This year we also witnessed the power of partnership in school districts–expanding our program to six new partner schools across the country. This growth speaks to the leadership of our partner districts and the commitment to our joint goal to close the opportunity and achievement gaps faced by our nation’s students. We also had the immense pleasure of welcoming Steven Schwartz of Cognizant and Peter Gorman of Amplify (and the former superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools) to our national Board of Directors.

3. Evidence of Impact. 

This fall Citizen Schools released impressive results from the first two years of a three year Expanded Learning Time pilot. Schools that were previously low-performing, experienced significant growth under the ELT model. With an average proficiency gain in English language arts and math of 10.4 percentage points over the past two years, Citizen Schools is a proven model of turnaround success according to U.S. Department of Education standards.

We could never have built lasting partnerships, sparked big ideas or achieved this amazing success without the support from our staff, volunteers, funders, families, school districts, school partners and most importantly our amazing students. Despite challenges both large and small and a few forks in the road, it has been a remarkable year in Citizen Schools history.

Thank you for your continued belief that we can change public education America. Here's hoping for an even better 2013.

Networking Inspires Dreams: Abdullah's Story

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.

The future doesn't just happen--we create it. Donate to Citizen Schools this year! donate now

The Power of a Catalyst

Elizabeth Black is a first year Teaching Fellow at the Orchard Gardens K-8 School in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

Frank always talks about cars: building cars, enhancing cars, watching car shows. On his first day of seventh grade this year (and the first day I met him,) he told me he was going to be an engineer. Last year, Frank built a solar car in his Citizen Schools Solar Cars apprenticeship, in the same classroom where he had his English Language Arts class.

At Orchard Gardens K-8 School in Roxbury, Massachusetts, where I serve as an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow, 90% of the student body qualify for free and reduced lunch. Most of my students are English language learners, and many come from immigrant families. That day, when Frank first walked into my classroom, he challenged any preconceptions (or misconceptions) I had about students who come from low-income communities. He has continued to do so every day.

On October 17th, Frank went with Professor Sue Freeman of Northeastern University, the volunteer "Citizen Teacher" who led that Solar Cars class, to Google’s headquarters in Cambridge. This was a special opportunity to teach back what he had learned. The special event marked the launch of Citizen Schools’ Catalyst Initiative, which will bring 7,500 professionals in science and technology fields into middle schools like Orchard Gardens.

In this hub of technical ingenuity, Frank described different ways to power a vehicle, showing off paper boats powered by wind and cars made of CDs and rubber bands. But Frank did not need props to captivate the guests drawn to his booth. His energy and obvious interest were enough to engage Google employees and Fidelity financiers.

Then, as I stood at the back beaming, I heard him depart from the topic of the night and bring up the presidential debate he had watched the previous evening. With the authenticity and innocence of a 13-year-old, Frank recounted the moment in the town hall debate that meant the most to him: when a college student asked the candidates what they were going to do to create jobs for college graduates. The candidates talked about investing in alternate forms of energy and the number of jobs that would be created to support that initiative.

“Since I am going to be an engineer,” he said, “and I already know about alternate energy vehicles—and I built a solar car last year—I was thinking, by the time I graduate college, there are going to be a lot of jobs for me!”

I stood in awe. The ability to take something of national concern and bring it down to his level, knowing the steps he needs to take to be successful, the connection between something he learned in middle school translating to a career after college—these are the moments we as teachers hope to inspire. These are the moments that become catalysts for success.

That evening, Frank changed the way I think about teaching. Perhaps we underestimate the very same students whom we are trying to teach. I never thought any of my 7th graders would tune-in to the debates, let alone understand the politics. Once again, Frank surprised me.

Because of his words, I am more intensely aware of each of my students. What can I do so that Randy connects his love of movie special effects to a career in technology and engineering? How can I show Camila that her perfect scores in vocabulary will help her in medical school because she wants to become a doctor?

With the right opportunity, Frank was able to make a remarkable connection between his interests and his future. All children deserve the same.

For more information about how you or your company can become a Catalyst, email Nicole Quinlan at Continue the conversation and read more stories like Frank's on Twitter with the hashtag #CatalystMoment.

Forbes: Solving The Other Jobs Crisis: Creating an Innovation Culture

Forbes Solving The Other Jobs Crisis: Creating an Innovation Culture

November 5, 2012

Citizen Schools was highlighted is this piece by Francisco D'Souza, the CEO of Cognizant, as an organization that is focused on getting students engaged in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities by connecting them with corporate volunteers during a longer school day. The article calls for the importance of getting involved to help develop the next generation into an internationally competitive STEM workers. The STEM industries are growing rapidly and an inadequate number of individuals are ready to meet the demand.

Cognizant became a National Leadership Partner with the organization in July of 2011 and hundreds of volunteers have donated their time to work with students in classrooms across the country. Volunteers have worked on a vast array of apprenticeships including solar cars, Techno Swag, documentary filming, and more. Citizen Schools recently launched an initiative, Catalyst, to help inspire students to become passionate about science, technology, and innovation through hands-on projects and connections to professionals in the field.

"Catalyst" Launches In Boston

Think back to that moment when it all made sense. When that light bulb went off and you thought, "YES! This is what I want to do!" Who inspired you? When did it happen? What was your Catalyst Moment?At Citizen Schools we believe that an inspiration gap exists in schools across the country. Thousands of students don't have a fair shot of having a Catalyst Moment. But you can change that by being a part of our new campaign: Catalyst.

On Wednesday, October 17, Citizen Schools launched the Catalyst initiative at the Google offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Over the next three years, Citizen Schools will raise $10 million to mobilize 7,500 scientists, engineers, and technology experts to inspire and ignite a passion in children across the country. Check out this video with more details:

The evening prompted some role reversals: the kids became the teachers and the adults recalled their own middle school dreams. Students impressed the guests with products from their apprenticeships. Alternative energy vehicles, computer programmed robots, ultra violet beads, and even "Techno Swag" (a merging of fashion and technology) had the room feeling inspired.

High school junior and Citizen Schools alumnus Akelo Wade offered his Catalyst Moment to the crowd, which included scientists, Fidelity financiers, physicists, researchers, and inventors. Akelo recalled the middle school aerodynamics apprenticeship that exposed him to a career he never knew existed, and now he's hooked.

Citizen Schools leaders Eric Schwarz and Pat Kirby and Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville showed how much public education can benefit from participation of professionals from STEM fields, and how Citizen Schools Catalyst is uniquely positioned to make a big impact.

Cognizant's Mark Greenlaw told an amazing story of his own experience teaching--and being taught by--middle school students, and Google's Steve Vinter was exuberant about the way teaching apprenticeships inspires his already brilliant employees. Both Cognizant and Google, together with Carnegie Corporation of New York, are the first Catalyst Partners--putting major investments in the campaign to start a chain reaction in education.

Guests shared their own Catalyst Moments on white boards around the room. Maybe you'll feel some of the chemical energy in this slideshow.

In the weeks leading up to the launch, friends and supporters from around the country who couldn't attend the event shared their inspirations:

"I was underperforming in my 8th grade classes when my math standardized tests scores came back. My math teacher pulled me aside, told me I had a natural gift in math and lectured me about how I could do better. From that point forward, I was a straight A student and a math lover!" Petra Weiss, Google, Boston, MA teaching "Brand You"

"I was hooked when I put together my first computer in junior high school. From that point on, I knew I had to go into a career in technology!" Ed Lau, Microsoft, Charlotte, NC teaching "How Have Computers Changed Your Life?"

"My catalyst was a female chemical engineer who came to speak to my all-girls high school summer program.  She explained how she used her chemical engineering skills on a daily basis and demonstrated some of the products she worked on." Jennifer Sandidge, Merck, Newark, NJ teaching "I Scream, You Scream"

Paul Reville proposed a challenge to the event attendees. He said, "Schools can't close achievement gap alone. We need Catalysts!" We need you. Thanks to partners like Google, Cognizant, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, we are halfway to reaching our $10 million goal, and closer to helping kids like Akelo discover their dreams. You can become a strategic partner in making their dreams come true. Visit and contact Nicole Quinlan to learn how.

Meanwhile, continue the conversation. Tell us your Catalyst Moment on Twitter: @cschools, tag #CatalystMoment.