Showing Students How to Dream Big

A 12-year-old might dream of becoming an astronaut, the president, a firefighter, an athlete. But does she know what it takes to achieve that dream? Does she know what classes are important or what colleges she can go to? Does she know what other careers are out there that might also interest her? Students on a field trip at Bank of America

Thanks to a group of volunteers from Bank of America, middle school students in the Citizen Schools program at Martin Luther King Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina are discovering their own dreams, and learning how to achieve them. This career exposure and journey of self-discovery happens in an afternoon “apprenticeship” class as part of the Citizen Schools expanded learning day program.

Andrew Blaser, an AVP at Bank of America, was part of leading the Brand You apprenticeship class. Once a week, students learned how to apply the principles of branding to their own lives by discovering what makes them unique and exploring future careers that reflect their unique interests and personalities. Throughout the ten week course, the students worked on creating a personal brand message based on their interests, college and career goals, and then had the chance to present their personal goals to executives at Bank of America.

We asked Andrew to reflect on his experience in the classroom. Here’s what he had to say...

One of the greatest parts of the curriculum we chose to teach, Brand You, was that it allowed us to explore potential career paths with our students. This was an exciting opportunity because many of them had never considered the possibilities before this class. Once the class had discovered their unique characteristics, such as strengths, weaknesses, passions, etc., they were asked to put together a list of future careers they would love to have.

Students presenting their brands to executives at Bank of America

We generated a worksheet to help with this exercise, listing potential careers from auto mechanic to surgeon to teacher to financial planner, 42 options in all.  The students loved this because it presented them with so many options that would never have occurred to them otherwise, and, of course, since this list was not exhaustive it helped spark some great creativity in the class to come up with even more great ideas. By the end of our time together, we had students who wanted to be veterinarians, soccer stars, programmers, law enforcement, and everything in between!

Many students were able to choose their possible future careers because we helped them connect the dots through the exercises in class. This is the greatest part as a Citizen Teacher because it shows that we made an impact and helped someone dream big. In particular, I can think of one student who really struggled with deciding on careers and we were able to help her find something she was extremely passionate about.

When asked to create a list of potential career paths, this student was stumped. We went back into her folder and pulled exercises we had completed in class. This included a personal SWOT analysis, brand descriptors, and other personal evaluation tools. Using these, we determined that she had a real passion for music and science. As a hobby, she loved listening to music. It was one of her favorite activities. After some discussion, we thought about how she could share that talent with the world as a DJ.

She loved the idea, but we pushed her a little further. Of course, it is possible to make a career being a DJ, but we wanted to go another step, so we urged her to think about how she could combine music with her love of science.

This opened up the world of being a researcher, where she could pursue an advanced degree in science relating to the study of music. Or she could be a physicist, thinking about how sound waves interact with the world. The list went on, but the takeaway was that by thinking about a career revolving around what she loved, and not as a just a job down the road, we created a list of exciting possibilities that will hopefully inspire her to continue her education and enter a rewarding field down the road.

You can help a students discover their dreams by signing up to teach an apprenticeship. 

Why I Get Up for Work in the Morning

Alyssa Pressman is a first year National Teaching Fellow in Charlotte, North Carolina. 


I go to work every day with a purpose and leave every day excited about the next. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but when I made the decision to be an AmeriCorps National Teaching Fellow with Citizen Schools, I knew it was the right choice thanks to the people I get to work with every day-- my team, and my students.

1. The Team.

For me, deciding to join the AmeriCorps National Teaching Fellowship was all about the people. When I first met my team at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina, I saw how much they truly cared about and supported each other. It’s hard not to like the people you work with when you’re all there to make a real difference and serve the community. I instantly liked them and knew I had made the choice.

Cs Elle Story 2

I never really thought about being a teacher, but the Fellowship is so unique in that you get to teach students, while being part of such a collaborative and well-rounded team. We all have many roles, from managing volunteers, to analyzing student grades, and the best part is that we’re all there to support and learn from each other. We laugh every day, have fun every day, and I look forward to going to work to see them. I knew this work would be challenging, but my team helps me understand that no matter how hard it can be on some days, together we are making a real impact on kids.


2. The  Students

At the beginning of the year, one student’s mom told me that her daughter never wanted to be in school. She had a problem with too many absences and her mom really wanted her to socialize and be more confident. According to research by Robert Balfanz, less than 80% attendance in 6th grade put students at high risk for dropping out of school down the road. I was immediately concerned and determined to help this sweet, shy student.

20140210_164504I have a rule in my classroom that when my students speak they have to stand up so that they get comfortable talking in front of a group. I knew this student was a hard worker and she had a flare for art, so I would ask her about her artwork and get her talk about it with me one on one. After spending the time to really connect with her, one day when I asked a question in class, she was the first one to stand up and answer the question. Now she reaches out to help out other students in the classroom and participates regularly. I am proud to say that she had perfect school attendance during her first semester of Citizen Schools.

That story always reminds me just how rewarding it is when you have one of those amazing days with the students. You never know what they are going to come into the classroom with and it can be really tough sometimes. But the students want to learn, and I go back to work every day to help them. It surprised me just how much they have made an impact on me, and how I can leave work feeling like it was the best day ever, no matter what the challenges are.

Joining the Teaching Fellowship is by far the best decision I have ever made. I always tell my friends and family that everyone who graduates from college should do some kind of service, and the AmeriCorps National Teaching Fellowship is a great way to serve.  I don’t think there is any job out there more rewarding. Every day I have the chance to give these students the belief that they can go to college and achieve their dreams. The Teaching Fellowship is going to push you as a person and as a professional. You are going to grow and learn so much. It is definitely a challenge, but no matter how tough my day is, when I go home I know I made  a difference. And when I wake up in the morning I am excited to do it again.

You can make an impact while shaping your career like Alyssa, by applying to the National Teaching Fellowship today.

Citizen Schools Alumna Makes Her Dreams Come True

Mary Espinosa is a rising sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a former Citizen Schools student. This is an adaptation of a speech she gave at the Celebrating Community Collaboration fundraising event in Charlotte, North Carolina.  I am honored to be a Citizen Schools alumna. I graduated from the program in 2008, and it was one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences in my educational career. Before joining Citizen Schools in eighth grade, I was unsure of whether I wanted to attend college or not. College seemed like an impossible dream, but going through the Citizen Schools 8th Grade Academy program inspired me to pursue my dreams of a college education.

mary speechBy attending college visits, I realized that not only was college an achievable feat, but that I was determined to go no matter what. Citizen Schools inspired me to believe in myself and showed me that college was a realistic goal for me -- that I was as deserving of a college education as any other individual.  I am proud to say that I am a first generation college-student who just finished my freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where I am majoring in Social Work, so that I too can help young people achieve their goals and encourage them to turn their dreams into reality.

I believe that Citizen Schools is an extremely valuable program and that it is key in ensuring the success of countless students. For me, it helped shape my future. I felt more prepared than many of my peers were when I entered high school. I had developed study techniques from after school homework time, I had learned about the college process from college tours, and my apprenticeships helped me connect what I was learning in the classroom with real world experiences. I learned how to work in a group, how to present and speak publicly thanks to our WOW! presentations, and I started to look into career fields that piqued my interest. Apprenticeships taught me real world values and skills that I use even today, over four years later.

imageCitizen Schools helped shaped me into who I am today. But, Citizen Schools programming alone was not the only reason why I was -- and continue to be -- so determined to succeed. My Citizen Schools Team Leaders and volunteer Citizen Teachers also played a huge role in that. I was so fortunate to work with these caring adults who never thought twice about encouraging me and supporting me through my educational journey. I want to thank Ms. Lisa, Mr. Angel, and Ms. Melissa for always encouraging me to dream -- and to make those dreams come true. They are the ones that really pushed me and inspired me to continue my education. As a middle schooler getting ready to transition into high school, their tremendous support meant the world to me.

I hope that together as a community, we can continue to inspire students like myself, not only here in Charlotte, but across the nation.

You can join the movement to inspire future leaders like Mary. Learn more about getting involved today. 

So Much More Than a Fundraiser

Spring is finally here and we are gearing up for our gala events across the country. This year we are more excited than ever to celebrate success, share results and get ready to take on next year's challenges. The upcoming events in Boston, New York, Charlotte and Mountain View and are so much more than your typical fundraisers. We chatted with our busy event planners about what makes these three galas so special... 1. A WOW! Affair, Boston, Massachusetts

awa1In the spring of 1999 the first A WOW! Affair gala was held in a board member's backyard. It has now grown to an event of nearly 500 attendees. In addition to an important fundraiser, the gala is also a celebration of our schools, teachers, volunteers and most importantly our students.

This year we are particularly thrilled to be honoring long time national leadership partner, Fidelity Investments, for their commitment to supporting the Citizen Schools mission. The event will feature a short speaking program, as well as a gallery of student work from apprenticeship classes across the state . We're excited to re-introduce our silent auction which is back by popular demand. Stay tuned for a list of great items you won't want to miss!

Event Details:

April 3, 2013 6:30-8:30 p.m.

The Boston Marriott Copley Place

Register Here

2. Calling All Citizens, New York, New York

20120502-CitizenSchoolsGala-145Citizen Schools New York is engaging the city in style this year at the fourth annual Calling All Citizens benefit. This year, the event will be hosted at the classic New York landmark, Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. The evening will be a celebration of growth-- growth of the program, growth of school and corporate partnerships and most importantly growth of the students.

Guests will enjoy a beautiful cocktail reception followed by a brief speaking program where they'll hear from a surprise honoree and a former student who will share how Citizen Schools has impacted her life. The evening will be focused on celebrating the students-- featuring a gallery of student work and a chance for students to teach guests what they learned in their apprenticeship classes. Don't miss the opportunity to launch rockets, experience socially conscious advertising and learn which stocks will earn you the big bucks--all presented by incredible students.

Event Details:

When: May 20, 2013 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Where: Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center

Register Here

image3. Citizen Schools Breakfast: Celebrating Community CollaborationCharlotte, North Carolina

This spring the Celebrating Community Collaboration breakfast is the first event of its kind for Citizen Schools North Carolina. Hosted at the iconic Mint Museum Uptown, this event is a chance to celebrate Charlotte’s culture of community impact, bringing together leaders such as Katie Belk Morris of The Belk Foundation, Charles Bowman of Bank of America and Principal Jennifer Dean from Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, who will all be honored at the event.

This event is particularly timely with the release of a longitudinal study showing the positive impact of the Citizen Schools program on the first cohort of participants who graduated from middle school in 2008. We are thrilled to announce that one of these bright young adults will be joining us to speak at the event. You won't want to miss hearing her story.

Event Details:

When: May 15, 2013 8:00- 9:30 a.m.

Where: Mint Museum Uptown

Event Website

4. BenefitED, Mountain View, California

CA_Benefit (1)Citizen Schools California is delighted to celebrate our first ever benefit on May 7th, 2013 at the Computer History Museum.

We are planning an evening of celebration for everyone who has committed so much to our schools- our corporate partners, our Teaching Fellows, our volunteer Citizen Teachers, our students and many others.  Guests will enjoy a host of pairings- from food and wine to STEM and student projects, to partners and students. We hope you will join us for our inaugural event!

Event Details:

When: Tuesday, May 7, 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Where: Computer History Museum

Register here

Even if you can't attend one of these events, you can support the Citizen Schools mission to close the achievement and opportunity gaps for low-income children with a donation today.

The Land of the Pine: North Carolina Regional Profile

The National Teaching Fellowship is the opportunity to serve middle school students through the expanded learning day in one of eight states.  This is the third of a regional series to profile each of our locations. “I've lived in New York and Washington, D.C., and North Carolina is my favorite place that I've ever lived.” –Zach Bradt, Teaching Fellow Class of ‘13

So you’re an ambitious, adventurous college senior about to set out on a path to career success.  As you consider The National Teaching Fellowship, consider this: North Carolina.

The Recruitment and Admissions Team sat down with North Carolina Operations Manager Sara-Kathryn Ferrell and second-year Teaching Fellow Zach Bradt on why the Fellowship is great down South...

Teaching Fellows at MLK Jr. Middle School

Southern Hospitality

The first year of the Fellowship is tough.  You will learn how to not only instruct students, but also how to communicate with corporate volunteers and project manage.  All Citizen Schools regions will support you, but the advantage of working in North Carolina is having a smaller team and friendly citizens.  Operations Manager Sara-Kathryn Ferrell says Teaching Fellows have more of an opportunity to take leadership and regional roles. Currently serving Teaching Fellow Zach Bradt adds that after school hours, Fellows can be found at a local baseball game, going out to dinner, or just hanging out on the weekends.

Student Speakers at the NASCAR Hall of Fame

A Life Between Weekdays

Because the cost of living in North Carolina is relatively low, Teaching Fellows are able to enjoy activities that range from sporting events to day trips to the coast. Charlotte and Durham both offer unique and fun atmospheres. Charlotte is home to professional teams in football and basketball, a National Whitewater Center, an Uptown nightlife, and is home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Durham is in the heart of Tobacco Road college basketball and has a famous minor league baseball team, the Durham Bulls. The neighboring cities of Raleigh and Chapel Hill also offer sporting events, concerts and delicious barbecue. Whether in Charlotte or Durham, both cities are a few hours away from the mountains or the beach.

Mountains AND Beach?  Hikers and Swimmers, Rejoice!

Indeed.  Again, low-cost outdoor entertainment is readily available in North Carolina.  Mountain-wise, North Carolina is home to Mount Mitchell, which is the tallest mountain in the Eastern United States, and the Blue Ridge Mountains.  You could even visit where part of “The Hunger Games” was filmed in the Pisgah National Forest.  Beach-wise, Wrightsville Beach near Wilmington is not far.  Wilmington, or “Filmington,” is where the famous television series of “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill” were filmed.

EMC Apprenticeship at Lowe's Grove Middle School

Notable Partners

North Carolina has strong partnerships with University of North Carolina at Charlotte, EMC, Cisco and the Environmental Protection Agency.  Apprenticeships this semester even include one called “Pet Responsibility” where a member of the Charlotte Police Department brings in their canine companion and is teaching the students about how to properly care for a pet. Another notable one is "MAD Science" where students make cell phone applications, collect data and analyze the results.

So if you like friendly people, great barbecue and a comfortable cost of living, consider North Carolina.

The next deadline to apply for the National Teaching Fellowship is March 18. Apply here today! 

Longitudinal Study Shows Promising Results in Charlotte

Think back to your first day of 6th grade. You were probably brand new to middle school–trying to find your classrooms, looking for familiar faces, trying not to get squashed by one of the big 8th graders. Six years ago, Mary Espinosa was one of those kids. But she wasn't just any new middle schooler. She came from an immigrant family that was brand new to Charlotte, North Carolina and starting middle school in an unfamiliar, lower-income neighborhood.

After a year of making new friends and meeting students from Spanish speaking households, one- parent households and all types of families, she joined a program called Citizen Schools in 7th grade. Her experiences there helped shape her trajectory–and that of her peers.

Citizen Schools was also brand new to Charlotte when Mary signed up, and its leadership hoped that its model would be as transformative here as it had been in Boston, where it was founded in 1995. The district, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), has defined its goal of achieving a 90% high school graduation rate by 2014 (compared to 75% in 2012). To accomplish that, it partners with a variety of programs. Citizen Schools is one.

Mary's High School Graduation

Mary and her fellow Eastway Middle School students stayed after school to experience academic support, caring mentors, and Citizen Schools’ signature enrichment opportunities–apprenticeships. Professionals from community companies like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Microsoft come to the schools to lead projects in a range of skills, helping kids discover new career paths and set goals for the next stage of their lives.

Now, the question for Citizen Schools and the district is “Did it work?” Can we tell if participating in a given program has had an impact on children’s lives, and how long does that impact last?

Answering this notoriously difficult question requires investing in a rigorous form of evaluation called a longitudinal study. Citizen Schools looked at its oldest cohort of alumni in Charlotte and their peers–more than 600 students. With additional data provided by CMS, we were then able to match the Citizen Schools participants to peers who were similar to them demographically but did not participate in the Citizen Schools program. This gave us the opportunity to measure the impact of Citizen Schools during middle school, as well as to and through high school.

Here’s what we learned.

Engagement and Achievement

Overall, across all cohorts, Citizen Schools participants had fewer absences during the Citizen Schools program year. Citizen Schools 7th grade participants identified as academically at-risk the year prior to Citizen Schools participation were 15 percentage points more likely to score proficient in Math in 7th grade than their matched peers. Hispanic Citizen Schools’ participants achieved a Math proficiency rate of 80% during their program years of participation in Citizen Schools–a rate 20 percentage points higher than their matched peers. 

In high school, Citizen Schools participants consistently scored higher and had a greater proportion pass the End-Of-Course exams than their matched peers, increasing their likelihood of on-time high school graduation and college readiness.

Charlotte Data


In middle school and high school, Mary and her Citizen Schools classmates actually got more education. They had a higher attendance rate than matched peers, reducing absenteeism by an average of 49% in 9th and 10th grade. They also had fewer out-of-school suspensions. In 9th grade, for example, the cohort had zero suspensions, compared to an average of 1.5 suspended days for matched peers.

In addition to engagement, the Citizen Schools alumni had impressive academic achievement. In 8th grade, the cohort achieved a Math End-of-Grade (EOG) proficiency rate 15 percentage points higher than matched peers, and 8.3 percentage points higher in Reading. Continuing that culture of achievement in high school, the cohort achieved an Algebra I End-of-Course (EOC) proficiency rate 20% points higher than matched peers, and 4.9% points higher on the English I EOC as well.

Higher Education

What accounts for this difference? Ask Mary, and she’ll tell you that her dedication to working hard stems from a dream she discovered in 8th grade, as part of Citizen Schools 8th Grade Academy (8GA). As she writes in this essay for Citizen Schools’ inspirED blog, as a young child she never considered the possibility of college. No one in her family had, and she figured it would be too expensive anyway.

But during 8GA, she went on a number of college tours, learned about financial aid and scholarships, and started to realize that college could be within her reach with hard work and determination. She wanted to be the first person in her family to go college, and now, she is. Mary is one of 46% of the first CMS Citizen Schools cohort who have seamlessly enrolled in college in fall 2012. This rate surpasses the national average of 40% for students of all income levels.

Half of these Citizen Schools alumni are currently enrolled at 4-year colleges, including excellent in-state schools such as UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte (where Mary attends), North Carolina A&T State University, and similarly strong out-of-state schools such as Howard University. The other half are currently enrolled at 2-year colleges, with the large majority enrolled at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte (CPCC)–a nationally recognized community college. Statewide in North Carolina, nearly 40% of students that earned a 4-year college or university degree last year had previously attended a 2-year college like CPCC. Nationally, fewer than 10% of low-income students earn a degree by age 25.

Mary and the other Citizen Schools alumni are on their way to that top ten. Mary considers herself to be one of the lucky ones. This year, when she was volunteering with a local youth group, she saw other kids like herself. She realized that they don’t usually hear someone say that they can go to college in the future, and she used her own life story to change that expectation. “After Citizen Schools, I definitely felt like I could go to college,” she said. “Giving us that mentality was very empowering.”

This data tells a compelling story about the effectiveness of programs that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is working with to ensure that all of its students graduate from high school. It is, however, early data on a small set of students. It will take sustained commitment from every teacher, parent, and community member to help Citizen Schools students and their peers stay on track, attending school more regularly, staying out of trouble, and achieving at higher rates.

Mary’s advice to current Charlotte students is simple. “Pay attention, work hard, and keep your eyes on the prize.” Mary and the first Citizen Schools cohort in Charlotte are not only beating the odds. They’re fundamentally changing the equation and closing the achievement gap through high school and into college. This data shows that there is hope for even more kids to do the same.

Bank of America Volunteers: In Their Own Words

Citizen Schools’ first apprenticeship, in journalism, was led by two young men with a dream to change education. But those young men, our co-founders Eric Schwarz and Ned Rimer, needed more than a dream to make their vision a reality; they also needed people and companies willing to invest money, time and thought partnership in their idea to bring citizens into classrooms as a “second shift” of educators. And Bank of America was right there, ready to invest their resources – and faith – in us. Brand You Apprenitce

Since those early days, the partnership between Bank of America and Citizen Schools has grown and evolved. More than 100 Bank employees have taught apprenticeships to middle school students across the country, on topics from investing to saving for college to branding. One brave Bank of America volunteer even taught Celtic dancing!

Just this past fall in Charlotte, North Carolina (where Bank of America was a founding partner) 17 Bank employees led an impressive four apprenticeships at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. We wanted to know what makes Bank of America employees some of our most dedicated volunteers, so we asked them what the Citizen Teacher experience meant to them. Here’s what they had to say:

“Our students were the stars of the show and made our Citizen Schools experience more fulfilling than we could have ever imagined.  They were simultaneously engaged and engaging, unafraid to ask questions and respectfully contribute their experiences at every turn.  It became quickly apparent that we were being held to a high standard which made us want to give 110%.  You know you’re having a fun and positive experience when you’re looking forward to the next class even before your current one has ended.”

- Jason Last, AVP Business Designer, College Prep Apprenticeship

The Brand You Apprenticeship

“It showed me the real impact that both students and professionals get from the apprenticeship experience. From a professional standpoint, teaching together helped us build a very strong team. We all leveraged each other to make sure that each lesson was as effective as it could be, and had great brainstorming sessions. And for the students, having such a diverse group of teachers made the lessons very accessible. We saw how much they appreciated our time and commitment. That was very powerful.”

- Nanelle Napp, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Brand You Apprenticeship

“We did a lesson about working through our strengths and weaknesses. At the end of the day when we asked the students what they had learned, one girl raised her hand and said, ‘I learned that if I put my mind to it, I can do anything.’ It was incredible that she got that take-away and that she believed that. For me that was the number one example of seeing these kids transform and become more like adults. We all had goose bumps.”

- Andrew Blaser, AVP of Business Controls and Monitoring, Brand You Apprenticeship

We've seen the impact that Citizen Schools – with the support of partners like Bank of America - has on children, the community and the country. Without our early and consistent partners, Citizen Schools might still be just a budding idea. Thanks to all of the companies and volunteers who make this work – and our students’ transformation – possible!

How this Citizen Schools Alumnus is Beating the Odds

Mary Espinosa is a first year student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC). She is an alumnus of Citizen Schools North Carolina. In middle school I didn’t quite realize the situation my peers and I were in. We were first generation Americans in a low-income community. I always knew that some families weren’t from the United States, but at that age I didn’t realize the importance of it.

I was born in California to Mexican parents. We moved to Charlotte, North Carolina in sixth grade where I attended Eastway Middle School. Eastway had a program in the afternoon called Citizen Schools. A lot of my friends were in the program and having fun so I decided to join in seventh grade.

Mary Espinosa

I loved Citizen Schools! I really liked the apprenticeships. They gave me the opportunity to branch out and try new things that I wouldn’t normally try. I’m not very artistic, but the art apprenticeship was my favorite. We painted a huge mural in the school cafeteria which is still there today.

The most meaningful part of Citizen Schools that really changed my life came in eighth grade. In 8th Grade Academy (8GA) we went on college tours all around the state. It was a really valuable experience at such a young age. Learning about college in middle school gave me an idea of what to expect. Going to real colleges motivated me to stay in school and work toward becoming the first person in my family to go to college.

A little over two years ago I co-founded a local youth group and it hit me. The kids we worked with couldn’t afford to go college and didn’t think they could attend. Just like some of the kids at Eastway.

I was one of the lucky ones. After Citizen Schools I definitely felt like I could go to college. Giving us that mentality was very empowering.  I saw the same thing with the youth I worked with. These kids don’t hear that very often. I’m personally glad that I heard it because when I was younger I remember thinking that I couldn’t go to college because it was too expensive. Citizen Schools really helped me reconsider that thought and made me believe that I could.

High School Graduation

Now I’m a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I am the first person in my family to go to college. My parents are from Mexico and they moved to the United States before I was born. It was a huge deal to them and they’re really proud of me. I have three younger sisters and now I am setting the right example for them.

I am majoring in social work and considering going to law school. I want to help kids who come from immigrant parents have access to college. I do a lot of community work and a lot of organizing around immigrants. I think that if I go into law, I will have a chance to more directly impact the lives of these young people by helping them get into college so that they can work and contribute to the economy and the country.

My message to Citizen Schools students everywhere is to take advantage of the program. Every time you visit a college campus you have to think, “I can be here in a couple of years.” Pay attention, work hard and keep your eyes on the prize. You have to fight the odds. It’s about moving forward and being able to educate yourself. Prove everyone wrong who said, “You can’t do it,” because you can.

The Real Impact of Volunteering: The Bank of America Story

After teaching a ten-week apprenticeship class, our volunteers often say, “The students taught me more than I taught them.” We love that our volunteer Citizen Teachers feel so fulfilled after working with the students, but we wondered, what does that really mean? So we decided to ask two Citizen Teachers from Bank of America in Charlotte, North Carolina. Nanelle Napp is Senior Vice President of Marketing and a member of Citizen Schools’ NC Advisory Board and Andrew Blaser is AVP of Business Controls and Monitoring. Here’s what they had to say:

Citizen Schools: How did you hear about Citizen Schools?

Andrew: I heard about it from someone who is in the leadership development program for recently graduated MBAs with me. I was new to Charlotte and looking for volunteer opportunities.

CS: Nanelle, as a Citizen Schools North Carolina Advisory Board member, what was it like actually teaching for the first time?

The Brand You Apprenticeship

Nanelle: It showed me the real impact that both students and professionals get from the apprenticeship experience. From a professional standpoint, teaching together helped us build a very strong team. We all leveraged each other to make sure that each lesson was as effective as it could be, and had great brainstorming sessions. And for the students, having such a diverse group of teachers made the lessons very accessible. We saw how much they appreciated our time and commitment. That was very powerful.

CS: How did teaching an apprenticeship impact the relationships you had with the members of your team?

Nanelle: It fosters friendships for one thing. I feel closer to the people in marketing than I did before and I’ve made new friends at the same time. It gives you an appreciation for your teammates that you wouldn’t get otherwise because you’re working on something together that is totally different than your jobs.

Andrew: Nanelle actually convinced me to join her team. One of the best parts of working with Citizen Schools was that I didn’t know any of the five people on my team at first and now I’m really close to them. I got to meet some people in the marketing department that I wouldn't get to meet or work with otherwise. I even play tennis with one of them now! CS: In addition to connecting with each other, how did you connect with the students?

Student Wearing Andrew's Tie

Andrew: On the night of the WOW! event one of my students, Jonathan, was really upset in the corner of the room. He is usually a pretty energetic kid so I went over and talked to him, and he simply said, "I hate my tie!" He hated it so much that he was embarrassed to be wearing it. So I offered him my tie and he got super excited. He instantly was back to normal and was a star performer of the evening. It was such a great moment.

CS: As part of the apprenticeship experience you went beyond the classroom and hosted an event at Bank of America for the students to network with bank executives. Why was that important?

Nanelle: I wanted to have the event at Bank of America for two reasons. When I was little I used to go to my father’s office. My dad worked in the Empire State Building. Those kinds of visits really stick with you as a child. Giving kids the opportunity to meet people and see people in the working environment is very important. The second reason is that sometimes it’s a challenge to get executives out of the office, so if we brought the kids to them, we could expose more people at the bank to Citizen Schools and to the students. It was a win-win.

CS: Was there a moment where you realized the impact your team was having on the students?

Andrew: One story pops immediately to mind. We did a lesson about working through our strengths and weaknesses. At the end of the day when we asked the students what they had learned, one girl raised her hand and said, ‘I learned that if I put my mind to it, I can do anything.’ It was incredible that she got that take-away and that she believed that. For me that was the number one example of seeing these kids transform and become more like adults. We all had goose bumps.

Do you want to experience the same impact that Nanelle and Andrew did? Sign up to teach an apprenticeship today and you’ll understand why so many volunteers keep coming back, and why, indeed, they learn more than they ever imagined.


Charlotte Chamber Films Citizen Schools Students During Mock Interviews

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 -

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.