Cisco Foundation

How I Helped Middle School Students Make a Difference in Their Community

This blog post was originally published on Cisco's Corporate Social Responsibility blog.

By Stephen Liem, IT Director, Global Quality and Support Services at Cisco

Stephen and his apprenticeship students at their end-of-semester WOW event, a Citizen Schools tradition where students teach back what they learned to teachers, parents, and community members.

There is no limit to what education can bring. It opens up many opportunities that otherwise may not be available.

In the past 10 weeks I‘ve had the privilege of teaching journalism to the middle school students in Joseph George School in East Jan Jose, California. Cisco has been partnering with Citizen Schools, a nonprofit organization, to deliver after school educational programs to low-income schools across the country.

Citizen Schools aims to prevent students from dropping out of high school through its Extended Learning Time (ELT) model, which provides after-school mentoring and support to low-performing middle schools. Volunteer professionals, or “Citizen Teachers,” teach 10-week after-school apprenticeships on topics they are passionate about, from blogging to filmmaking to robotics.

On average the schools Citizen Teachers visit do 300 hours less of after school programming compared to their counterparts. In East San Jose, where the graduation rate is at 79%, providing more meaningful educational programs has certainly helped not just the students themselves but also the community.

As a “Citizen Teacher” with the nonprofit Citizen Schools, Stephen Liem helped sixth graders create their own newspaper

In my journalism class, students in the sixth grade learned how to interview and collect data, how to write an article well, and how to express and publish their opinions honestly and truthfully. Collectively they decided on the name of the newspaper – the East San Jose News — and the subject of their stories.

The results were both eye opening and touching at the same time.

Erika and Tracy, for example, wrote that while they do not necessarily like to wear a school uniform, nevertheless it is important to wear one, because, “it protects you from gangs!” The story describes the reality they often must face outside of school, a reality that under normal circumstance they should not have to live with. It is a touching statement.

Christopher in the editorial section wrote about the importance of voicing your opinion to make a difference: “School could be cooler if you just speak up and ask for what you want. Sometimes your answer will be ‘no’ or ‘maybe,’ ‘just wait,’ or straight up “yes.’ But you will never find out unless you speak up and make your voice heard.” They may be in sixth grade, but the students absolutely understand that they can contribute to their community and they are ready to make that difference.

I enjoyed every minute I spent with my students. It was an educational process for me, but most important, I believe it was a tremendous educational experience for the students. In our country, where inequality in access to education and income disparity exist, I applaud Cisco and Citizen Schools’ effort to level the playing field for the sake of our future generation. I am glad that through Cisco, I have the opportunity to give back to my community.

Cisco employees are among Citizen Schools’ largest group of Citizen Teachers – 184 employees have taught 89 apprenticeships – and Cisco has provided more than $2 million in cash and product grants to the organization since 2009. Learn more about the partnership between Cisco and Citizen Schools.

Blending Learning Pilots Take Off with Cisco Foundation and MIND Research Institute

st math photo 3Meeting every student’s academic needs in the classroom can be challenging but is essential to their success. Many of the public middle schools Citizen Schools partners with are reaching students who are academically all over the map, with many falling below grade level. In order to provide customized support to the highest-need students, we began “blended learning” pilots this year focused on core math instruction. Blended learning, which pairs computer-aided instruction with face-to-face classroom methods, enables Citizen Schools’ staff in four pilot programs across the country to offer more personalized and more efficient academic support during the expanded learning day. Partnered with Cisco Foundation and MIND Research Institute, the blending learning math program utilizes Spatial-Temporal (ST) Math instructional software to focus on improving students’ math skills, with the aim of increasing student proficiency for long-term success.

st math photo 2Launched this September, over 350 students are utilizing the ST Math instructional software at four schools across the country. And after 3 months of implementing the pilots, the initial feedback and support from our school partners is positive.

At Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School in Roxbury, MA, Citizen Schools’ staff members are collaborating with teachers throughout the whole school day to align ST Math with the scope and sequence of their school day math lessons. The head of Orchard Gardens’ math department shared, “ST Math is a great tool and resource. It will be effective when used to review and practice what is being done in class".

On the other side of the country in Oakland, CA, Greenleaf Academy requested to expand and integrate the software for a small group of 5th graders after implementing it successfully with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.

st math photo 1In East Palo Alto, CA, partner school Cesar Chavez Academy, developed a special “small group” learning environment to offer additional time for English Language Learners who cannot access instruction as easily because of language barriers. Ricardo Benavidez, Community Relations Manager with Cisco, recently visited this school and commented, “With ST Math, students play animated games designed to increase math comprehension and proficiency while promoting student persistence and self-confidence to solve problems.”

Through pilots like ST Math and partnerships with organizations like Cisco and MIND Research Institute, Citizen Schools is able to provide customized learning experiences for students at all levels, ensuring they’re armed with the knowledge needed to succeed in high school, college, and the 21st century workforce.

 

Forbes - Breaking Good: Transcending The Good For Others/Good For Me Tradeoff

Forbes - Breaking Good: Transcending The Good For Others/Good For Me Tradeoff

Happiness is good. Actually it’s found in the pursuit of three goods: good for others, good at it, good for me. Even better, a study by the University of Vermont on Citizen Schools‘ impact has shown that this is not an either/or situation. You can pursue what is good for others, what you’re good at, and what is good for you all at the same time