Corporate Partnerships

Mock Interview Days at the Eddy and Trotter in Boston

Mock Interview Days at the Eddy and Trotter in Boston

During the week of January 22 - January 26 Citizen Schools welcomed over 80 volunteers to the Trotter Innovation School and Edwards Middle School in Boston, and the Browne Middle School in Chelsea to participate in Mock Interview Days.

Cognizant Employees Teaching Code

The Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education has stated that New Jersey will need to fill 269,000 STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs by 2018. Cognizant Technology Solutions, a Citizen Schools partner, is helping alleviate this current STEM crisis through their employee volunteering program. This semester three Cognizant employees, Meeghan Salcedo, Siva Krishna Titti, and Shivani Mehta, will be leading Citizen Schools New Jersey’s coding apprenticeships at Chancellor Avenue Elementary School and Eagle Academy for Young Men with the hopes to inspire a next generation of STEM professionals in New Jersey. How do you think coding will benefit the students at Eagle Academy and Chancellor Avenue?

Meeghan: STEM studies are extremely important. This coding apprenticeship will not only teach the students how to code and what careers they can pursue in this field, but it will also broaden students’ horizons and expose them to a field not traditionally taught in [middle] school.

Shivani and student

Siva: Coding will definitely benefit the students. Technology is evolving every day, so it is good to have coding skills to contribute towards the next revolution in technology. Also, for me coding is fun; kids will enjoy the classes.

How is Cognizant's partnership with Citizen Schools helping build a strong workforce in the STEM industry?

Shivani: I believe that Cognizant's partnership with Citizen Schools is great for both. People from Cognizant, like myself, who want to contribute to their communities by sharing their knowledge, are now able to volunteer through the encouragement of our company, which is a valuable and fulfilling combination. Citizen Schools’ students are now being exposed to employees in the STEM industry which can help guide them with their skills as well as understanding what it means to work in the STEM industry. I hope that the students are being encouraged to achieve their dreams and goals by not only Cognizant volunteers, but all volunteers.

Meeghan: Cognizant’s partnership with Citizen Schools definitely helps lay the foundation for a strong STEM workforce. It is so vital to furthering technology that we encourage these studies at an early age. As a Cognizant associate, it is incredibly rewarding to help facilitate that.

Meeghan and her apprentice

Siva: Cognizant is one of the leading technology consulting organizations. With highly qualified and experienced workforce, we deliver innovative solutions to our customers across industries. When we teach at Citizen Schools we bring our experiences to the classes. This gives a realistic view of the industry to the kids, thus helping them understand the subject while relating to the real world.

During last semester’s Solar Cars apprenticeship, what changes did you see in your students in terms of skill development and/or confidence?

Shivani: In the beginning of the apprenticeship, we understood that the kids were bored with just listening to lectures and completing handouts, and they had a lot of energy throughout the hour and half classes. Because of this, we were able to engage them physically with games and smaller groups. This showed a great change in their confidence because each of us were then able to interact with the students one-on-one. By discussing with them their ideas and opinions, along with their questions and concerns, we were able to tackle challenges the students faced through discussions. Their confidence seemed to have increased towards the end of the apprenticeship. They were excited to learn as well as share with the class what they learned and even teach the rest of us by sharing their ideas. Their technical and innovation skills such as designing and prototyping the solar cars had improved with the aid of the "design process". This means there was a lot of iteration where the students designed, built, and adjusted based on the learning in class. We emphasized to them that failing is good because it

Siva and his apprentices

means they can learn from it and create or make something better over time and it definitely showed at the end of the semester. They also developed communication skills through the different activities and games we incorporated.

Over 130 Cognizant employees have volunteered in New Jersey since 2010. We thank all of the Cognizant Citizen Teachers for championing our students, our communities, and our program!

To learn more about Citizen Schools’ apprenticeships, please contact Ashley Drew, Civic Engagement and Operations Associate, at

PRESS RELEASE: Biogen Idec Foundation Pledges Additional Support to Citizen Schools to Advance STEM Education

CITIZEN SCHOOLS CONTACT: Holly Trippett, (617) 695-2300 x1161, Cell: (301)-452-3904, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


The $1.5 Million Investment Will Allow the Organization to Scale Programming Nationally; Company named “National Innovation Partner”

Boston, MA– January 26, 2015—Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit organization that partners with public middle schools to expand the learning day for underserved students, today announced a new Biogen Idec Foundation grant to support its science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs, and has named the Biogen Idec Foundation its first National Innovation Partner.

Based on a shared commitment to sparking students’ interest in science through hands-on experiences, the Biogen Idec Foundation will help launch the next phase of Citizen Schools’ national STEM strategy to improve and scale the hands-on apprenticeship model for STEM learning in Massachusetts and North Carolina and at the national level.

The $1.5 million, three-year investment will allow Citizen Schools to provide thousands of middle school students with real-world learning opportunities led by volunteer professionals and will also support a STEM curriculum development and a randomized evaluation by leading evaluation firm Abt Associates. The analysis will test whether providing STEM-focused apprenticeships leads to increased STEM interest and achievement in math and science for middle school students.

The Biogen Idec Foundation has supported Citizen Schools since 2008, providing more than $250,000 in grants to support the organization’s STEM apprenticeship programs in Boston, MA and Research Triangle Park, NC.

"The best way to engage students in the STEM subjects is by providing exciting, hands-on learning experiences with experts, like Biogen Idec scientists, who can show them what’s possible beyond the classroom,” said Steven Rothstein, CEO of Citizen Schools. "We are incredibly grateful for The Biogen Idec Foundation's support as we work to improve educational opportunities for students in low-income communities across the country."

“The Biogen Idec Foundation and Citizen Schools share an ongoing commitment to spark student’s interests in science through hands-on experiences and exposure to a variety of career pathways,” said Tony Kingsley, chairman of the Biogen Idec Foundation. “We are proud to serve as the first National Innovation Partner and work to improve educational opportunities and long-term success for underserved students.”

As a National Innovation Partner, the Biogen Idec Foundation will extend the innovative work of the Biogen Idec Community Lab from Massachusetts to North Carolina. The combination of Biogen’s unique apprenticeships, commitment to STEM curriculum, and rigorous evaluation is poised to transform Citizen Schools’ STEM programs.

Since 2008, 37 Biogen Idec employees have taught nine apprenticeships in Massachusetts and North Carolina. Biogen Idec-led STEM apprenticeships help students transform into junior scientists at the Community Lab. The students conduct experiments side-by-side with Biogen Idec scientists, using the same state-of-the-art equipment and tools that the scientists utilize to discover and create new medicine. The apprenticeships introduce students to practical applications of their academics and introduce careers they might not have known existed.

Citizen Schools partners with public middle schools nationally to expand the school day for children in underserved communities through academic mentoring and skill-building apprenticeships. The projects foster authentic learning experiences and are taught by volunteer professionals, or Citizen Teachers, who share their expertise and passions in engaging and innovative ways. Citizen Schools’ focus on math and science based apprenticeships are helping to improve math proficiency levels and ensure a more diverse 21st century workforce skilled in the STEM job sectors.

About Citizen Schools Citizen Schools is a national nonprofit organization that partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities. Citizen Schools mobilizes a team of AmeriCorps educators and volunteer “Citizen Teachers” to teach real-world learning projects and provide academic support in order to help all students discover and achieve their dreams. For more information, please visit

About The Biogen Idec Foundation The Biogen Idec Foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of peoples' lives and contribute to the vitality of the communities in which the company operates, with a special emphasis on innovative ways to promote science literacy and encourage young people to consider science careers. Additional information about the Biogen Idec Foundation can be found at:


PRESS RELEASE: Cisco Supports Citizen Schools as a National Leadership Partner

CITIZEN SCHOOLS CONTACT: Holly Trippett, (617) 695-2300 x1161 or (301)-452 3904, CISCO CONTACT: Jennifer Dunn, (202) 354-2968,



Investment of Talent, Funding, and In-Kind Products Will Help the Organization Continue to

Scale Nationally

Boston, MA and San Jose, CA – August 28, 2013—Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit organization that partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for underserved students, today announced Cisco, a worldwide leader in networking communications, as a new National Leadership Partner.

Cisco’s investments of talent and financial support will help Citizen Schools deepen its impact on student learning in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Texas, as well as at the national level. With Cisco's $650,000 investment, Citizen Schools is helping middle school students succeed in high school, dream of college and careers, and reach their full potential. Cisco and the Cisco Foundation have supported Citizen Schools since 2009, providing more than $1.24 million in grants and products to help the program expand from 10 schools in five states to 31 schools in seven states and improve communication among staff nationally.

Citizen Schools partners with middle schools nationally to expand the school day for children in underserved communities through academic mentoring and skill-building apprenticeships. The hands-on projects foster authentic learning experiences and are taught by volunteer professionals, or Citizen Teachers, who share their expertise and passions in engaging ways.

Citizen Schools’ math and science-based apprenticeships are helping ensure a future workforce skilled in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) job sectors. Cisco employees are among Citizen Schools' largest group of Citizen Teachers, with more than 125 employees volunteering in 65 apprenticeships since 2009. Cisco-led STEM apprenticeships include robotics, web design, game design/coding, and networking.

The demand for STEM skills in the workforce is projected to increase and outpace the number of students working towards a STEM profession. Students of all levels, particularly girls and underrepresented minorities, receive little exposure to opportunities and experiences with STEM experts. A recent study from Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program found that STEM jobs are a major economic driver across the U.S. with 20 percent of all jobs in the country requiring a “high level of knowledge” in at least one STEM field.

Citizen Schools' apprenticeship model puts more expert science and math volunteers in underserved schools, helping to improve math proficiency levels and increase student preparedness for related subject areas like technology and engineering.

“At Citizen Schools, we know that helping middle school students make the connection between their academics and real jobs in the real world can have a remarkable impact on their long-term success,” said Eric Schwarz, Co-Founder and CEO of Citizen Schools and Executive Chairman of US2020. “We are pleased to have Cisco as a partner as we work to improve educational opportunities for underserved students.”

“Citizen Schools is an important education partner to Cisco. We share the goal of helping young people develop STEM skills that will excite them about learning, as well as prepare them for jobs of the future,” said Cisco Foundation Executive Director Peter Tavernise.  “Many students who are interested in STEM subjects lack the academic support they need to pursue them during school hours, and Citizen Schools’ Citizen Teacher program is helping to address this challenge.”

Cisco also joined the US2020 initiative as a Founding Leadership Partner on April 22, 2013. US2020 is a new organization formed through the partnership of leading education non-profits and corporate leaders in STEM fields. The initiative calls on CEOs of American companies to commit, by the year 2020, 20 percent of their workforce to volunteer at least 20 hours per year as an educational mentor in a STEM-related discipline. The initiative will be incubated within Citizen Schools until July of 2014 and will then become its own 501(c)(3) non-profit. As a part of its commitment, the company’s U.S. employees will participate in Citizen Schools’ various programs.

About Citizen Schools

Citizen Schools is a national nonprofit organization that partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities. Citizen Schools mobilizes a team of educators to teach real-world learning projects and provide academic support, in order to help all students discover and achieve their dreams. For more information, please visit

About Cisco

Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) is the worldwide leader in IT that helps companies seize the opportunities of tomorrow by proving that amazing things can happen when you connect the previously unconnected. For ongoing news, please go to


VIDEO: Cubist Pharmaceuticals in the Community

Citizen Schools partner Cubist Pharmaceuticals is busy making a significant impact in the community. With a focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, Cubist employees are giving their time and talents to build deep connections with students, inspiring them to become the next generation of innovators.

Mark Culliton, CEO of Cubist, is proud that employees are showing students that a future in STEM careers can be a reality. "By our students seeing that, and understanding that this could be them, it ignites that passion that may be the thing that keeps them engaged in school," he said.

Citizen Schools is grateful for the Cubist volunteers who spend one afternoon a week teaching "apprenticeship" classes on topics like rocket science and crime scene investigation. Leo Flanigan, Principal of Clarence Edwards Middle School, has witnessed his students make incredible discoveries thanks to the Cubist volunteer Citizen Teachers. He said "It gives them an authentic experience in places that we want them to go eventually. It also gives the kids a chance to see the relationship between the academics that they have right now and the skills that they'll need later."

President/COO of Cubist and Citizen Teacher, Rob Perez, said, "What drives me to be able to participate, to be able to try give back is the fact that I know the talent that exists in these kids. It just needs to be turned on." Thanks to the passion for giving back to the community, Cubist has allowed for that talent to be unlocked through life-changing experiences for in Massachusetts.


An Otherworldly Experience, And a Spectacular Failure

Picture this: It’s the not-too-distant future, and quantities of some of Earth’s rarest and most precious minerals are running out. We know that these minerals exist on certain asteroids and we’re ready to send un-manned spacecraft to check them out, but we’ll need to deploy fragile scientific measuring tools once we land on the asteroids to send data back to Earth. How would you deploy the measuring tools so that they reach their destinations without breaking? Photo by Alison Taggart Barone

Thanks to a partnership with EMC, RAFT and the San Jose Tech Museum, Citizen Schools’ students are cracking the case, and learning a whole lot about physics and engineering in the process.  Citizen Teacher Larry “Dr. B” Barone reported,

"The kids transformed themselves into master problem solvers, addressing challenges like my NASA colleagues -- only with more hands-on prototyping than math, more duct tape than circuit boards.  They kept journals, organized their teams, and innovatively repurposed everyday objects. You could see frequent eye popping moments of discovery each week as they brainstormed, built, and tested their ideas. The whole experience was magical as our kids learned from failure, embraced the chaos of innovation, and started their transformation into design thinkers."

Photo by Alison Taggart Barone

This is the second year that Citizen Schools participated in The Tech Challenge. In 2011, Keren Pavese, EMC’s Program Manager for their Western Division Office of Sustainability, Community Outreach and Diversity, and Jessica Graham, Citizen Schools’ then-Director of Civic Engagement, noticed that students like ours – from lower performing schools with limited science and technology resources – weren’t participating in the Tech Challenge described above, and were missing out on a great hands-on learning opportunity. But that changed when volunteers began teaching the Tech Challenge curriculum, giving our students the chance to apply what they were learning in class to a fun project that had relevancy in the real world.

Photo by Taggart Barone

Pavese, one of the first Citizen Teachers to teach the Tech Challenge, noted, “Throughout this apprenticeship, the students worked through success and failure, and leveraged team effort, determination, and creativity. It truly has been an honor to teach Citizen Schools students, to see their excitement for the Tech Challenge, and to witness a small idea grow into something much bigger. This year, we more than doubled the number of Citizen Schools students taking the apprenticeship!”

Said Barone, “With a few adults to join us next year, I’m sure we can get over a hundred Citizen School students to The Tech for the 2014 challenge – rumor has it that it will have to do with the wind.”

Regardless of the outcome of the Tech Challenge competition, one thing is clear – when scientists and engineers take the time to teach those topics to kids, everybody wins.

A Perfect Pairing: Tech Companies & Middle Schools

In music, everyone knows that good things come in pairs - Hall and Oates, Simon and Garfunkel, Sonny and Cher. Less obvious, however, are the pairs that drive success for students - hands-on learning and more time, Citizen Teachers and Teaching Fellows and, one of our favorites, technology companies and middle schools.

At Citizen Schools, the latter pairing enables us to deliver high-quality, experiential STEM learning opportunities to underserved students across the country, and EMC has been at the forefront of that effort since 2008. In that time, EMC has...

  • Taught 25 apprenticeships, on topics from electrical engineering to web design

  • Engaged 87 employee volunteers, impacting nearly 375 students

  • Fostered a connection between Citizen Schools and the San Jose Tech Museum, which resulted in our students first-ever participation in the competitive Tech Challenge program

  • Led numerous one-time explorations to their offices to share their STEM work and to encourage students to pursue STEM studies and careers

  • Provided crucial financial support to our programs in CA, MA and NC, including sponsorship of and attendance at our 6 Degrees networking events

One Citizen Schools alumnus, MacCalvin Romain, even went on to a successful career at EMC! Check out his story:

In honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Week and the hard work and dedication of EMC’s employee volunteers, Citizen Schools is pleased to recognize EMC. We've seen the incredible impact on students when technology companies like EMC partner with middle schools. The best things really do come in pairs!


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.


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.

6 Degrees Closer to Their Dreams

At Citizen Schools the theory of six degrees of separation is much bigger than a connection to actor Kevin Bacon. We've seen the power of networking come to life in our students. This fall at our 6 Degrees networking events across the country, they've met engineers, bankers, artists, scientists and more. This is what happens when American citizens connect with kids...

1. New Jersey

In Newark, New Jersey, a group of 6th graders from the Louise A. Spencer School experienced 6 Degrees in an apprenticeship class led by two employees from Cognizant and Citizen Schools staff member, Jessica Fick.

On December 5, they gathered at the Cognizant office to show off their newly developed skills. Citizen Teacher and Cognizant employee, Young Lee, was proud as the kids met with his colleagues. He said, "I believe that making a good first impression and connecting with others is an important life skill to have. I was really proud to see our students grow in confidence during the event. They eased into the exercise and grew comfortable speaking with strangers and showed their confidence."

The event served as a catalyst for one young man, Abdullah, who realized that he wanted to become a mechanical engineer and work for Cognizant in the future. To read Abdullah's story and find out more about the 6 Degrees of Newark event, check out this blog post by Jessica Fick.

2. New Mexico

On November 30, a group of 6th, 7th and 8th graders from Van Buren Middle School headed to the Fidelity office in the Mesa Del Sol building south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. In a room full of Fidelity employees, community volunteers, members of the Air Force and even former state Senator Tom Rutherford, the kids participated in an evening of speed-networking.

Interim Executive Director of Citizen Schools New Mexico Liza Aguirre-Oviedo said, "The 6 Degrees of Albuquerque event unleashed and embraced many outstanding skills and talents of Citizen Schools students.  Mobilizing over 30 volunteers representing a variety of professions, students were engaged and excited to showcase their newly developed networking skills.  Connecting with each student, listening to their take-aways and teach-backs, was truly a most compelling experience."

The students were excited too. Here's what they had to say:

Christopher Robison, 8th Grade: "We were able to use our networking skills to meet new people and learn about jobs that we might be interested in."

Kathy Rojo, 8th Grade: "I learned that if you want to be successful in life you have to have a good educational background because all the jobs that promise you a future require knowledge from college."

Jose Hernandez, 8th Grade: "I had fun because I got to talk to professional people. They gave me advice for high school and college."

3. Texas

17 students from Patrick Henry Middle School in Houston, Texas had the unique experience of learning the power of networking from Citizen Schools Texas Executive Director Todd Litton and his brother Charles Litton who is a wealth manager and UBS.

Professionals from many industries gathered at the Center for Houston's Future's downtown offices for a networking event on December 4. The event was planned in coordination with the Center for Houston's Future as a way for their forum graduates to get involved in the community. The volunteers helped show students that education makes dreams come true.

Catherine Mosbacher, President and CEO of Center for Houston’s Future said, "Not only were our Forum and LeadershipNEXT alums impressed by the students’ interviewing and networking skills,  they were delighted to learn how to impact the educational trajectory of our future leaders through Citizen Schools."

3. North Carolina

This fall students from Neal Middle School and Lowe's Grove Middle School in Durham, North Carolina, explored career pathways in the 6 Degrees apprenticeship led by volunteers from Fidelity.  On November 29 they got to meet  professionals from their dream careers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

During 6 Degrees of Durham, the students had the chance to network one-on-one with professionals from careers to which they aspire. The evening ended in an open- networking reception where the students got to experience the energy and excitement of being in a room full of successful adults.

Click here to meet the students and learn more about 6 Degrees of Durham. Click here to see photos from the event.

6 Degrees is an exciting experience that uses the power of networking to help students connect with professionals and learn about potential careers. You can support the 6 Degrees and other exciting initiatives at Citizen Schools by donating here.

Volunteering and Beyond

Citizen Schools has the most incredible volunteers. These dedicated Citizen Teachers commit to leading an apprenticeship class one afternoon per week for ten weeks. They plan field trips, bring in guest speakers and create incredible opportunities for middle school kids across the country. As if that wasn't enough, many of our volunteers have gone above and beyond the call of duty-- recruiting their friends and colleagues to teach apprenticeships, donating supplies and money, and advocating for Citizen Schools in state and local governments.

We asked Citizen Teacher and Citizen Schools supporter Megan De Porter Zeishner from Cisco Sytems why she supports Citizen Schools. Her responses are inspiring...

Name: Megan De Porter Zeishner

Company: Cisco Systems, Reseach Triangle Park, North Carolina

Citizen Schools Location: Durham, North Carolina

Name of apprenticeship: Girls U.N.I.T.E (Understanding Needs In Third World Education)

Campus: Neal Middle School


1. How many years have you been involved with Citizen Schools? 

I have been recruiting Cisco employees located at our RTP campus to volunteer with Citizen Schools for 1.5 years. This fall semester is the first semester I have taught with Citizen Schools.

2. Why did you decide to teach an apprenticeship this semester?

I have been very impressed with the Citizen Schools staff, students and volunteers from day one. I knew right away that I wanted to be involved in the classroom and this fall semester the right opportunity presented itself. A colleague of mine, Jan Pigeon, had volunteered to teach a girls advocacy and fundraising class which are topics that I have an interest and experience in. So I jumped at the chance to support her for the semester. 

3. What else are you doing to stay involved with Citizen Schools outside of teaching?

As the Community Relations Program Manager for Cisco RTP, I support Citizen Schools throughout the year by hosting information sessions at Cisco for potential volunteers, educating our employees on the national partnership that Citizen Schools and Cisco has developed, assisting with monetary and product grants to Citizen Schools (Citizen Schools of NC was awarded a $45,000 grant during the last granting cycle.) Beyond my job, I am a constant advocate for the program. 

4. What was your WOW! moment from this semester?

There were several moments throughout the year that made me say, "wow." But the most recent was during rehearsals for the end-of-the-year WOW! event. I was so impressed as I watched our students take the stage and not only teach back what they learned over the past 10 weeks, but teach what was important to them, what they felt was impactful and with great confidence. It was a wonderful moment. Check out our blog at

We are so thankful for volunteers like Megan who make a real difference in the lives of students in their communities. Every semester we get closer to closing the opportunity gap in America thanks to the leadership, commitment and support from thousands of Citizen Teachers. This spring you can join the ranks of America's best volunteers. Sign up to teach an apprenticeship. You can also get involved beyond the classroom by supporting Citizen Schools with a donation. 

Corporations Taking a Stand for Public Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Learnings from Launching an Education Program in Chicago

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

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

1. Make Friends 

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

2. Be Nimble

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

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

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

3. Communicate Clearly and Often

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

4. Focus on Impact

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

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

WilmerHale Attorneys are Citizen Schoolers for Life

 Anne Bowie is the Public Service Manager at WilmerHale in Boston. She is a longtime volunteer and supporter of Citizen Schools. WilmerHale, the international law firm where I work, has been teaching mock trial apprenticeships with Citizen Schools every semester for the past 15 years. That's 30 apprenticeships overall!  I am proud to say that I have been involved in 14 of them. Each semester we are excited to get into the classroom and build America's future attorneys. At WilmerHale, Citizen Schools is part of who we are and what we do.

We are particularly proud that every semester our classroom has a one to one student to attorney ratio. We engage 12 of our own employees as Citizen Teachers in the classroom and an additional ten employees who act as jurors and witnesses at the end of the semester mock trial event. Every student gets his or her own mentor throughout the entire apprenticeship experience.


Our attorneys have come out in full force to support the apprentices. Over the years we've engaged more than 250 employees and volunteered more than 14,400 hours. We've even taken our partnership bi-coastal! Our colleagues in California lead a mock trial apprenticeship with the Citizen Schools program at Cesar Chavez Academy in East Palo Alto. Over the years we've seen how far that commitment goes.

Several Citizen Schools alumni have gone on to pursue internships at our Boston office, and we are proud to hire them. Manouska Almonord, a senior at Boston Latin Academy and a graduate of Citizen Schools 8th Grade Academy, was one of WilmerHale’s 2012 Summer Leadership Institute interns. During the internship, Manouska was one of eight interns who attended academic classes, visited client sites, and enjoyed luncheons with WilmerHale attorneys and staff. She even got to sit at Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's desk during a field trip to the State House.  

We are thrilled that the fall 2012 semester has officially kicked off. Each year WilmerHale dedicates resources to a Citizen Schools campus. This year we are proud to be the only law firm working with the inaugural 6th grade class of Citizen Schools students at the Lee School in Boston, Massachusetts. We look forward to supporting the students at Lee in developing their interests in law and social justice through the apprenticeship program and continuing our deep partnership with Citizen Schools and the school community.

This week we had our first session with the kids at Lee and we are so happy to be back in the classroom. Our students are already buzzing with excitement about the class. Here's what they had to say:

“I like how you can talk to real people and really experience what lawyers do today” – Vivi Dang

“The apprenticeship is fun and we get to meet lawyers.  We get to solve problems in a calm way and avoid getting in a serious argument.” – Juloni Harroldhart

“The apprenticeship is really exciting because I feel like I’m a lawyer myself” – Christina Pham

“I’m excited to work with a real judge.” – Amoni Whitmore

We know this semester will be just like all 30 of the others-- a life changing experience for our WilmerHale volunteers and the 12 bright students we are serving.

Top 5 Marketing Apprenticeships

As a  marketing professional, I am biased towards the industry. But as it turns out, kids really do get a lot out of learning marketing skills in middle school. Over the years, our marketing apprenticeships have shown kids how to pitch and present like pros, a skill most adults grapple with. Thanks to partners like Jack Morton, McCann-EricksonCisco and Fidelity Investments our students have produced impressive PSAs, commercials, radio spots, ads and more. Middle schoolers across the nation know how to truly captivate an audience. After browsing through video after video of the best stuff on the market, we've pulled out our top five. Trust me, you'll want to buy what these kids are selling...

1. Fighting Child Obesity with McCann Erickson. For the past five years, the kids from Isaac E. Newtown Middle School in Harlem have been working with a group of volunteers from McCann Erickson in a program called Ad Lab. Last year the students produced not one, but five commercials about fighting child obesity.

In July, McCann-Erickson was recognized for their commitment to Citizen Schools at the prestigious 2012 IPG Inclusion Awards. The apprenticeship team was given the Silver Community Partnership Award, honoring their engagement with Citizen Schools. McCann-Erickson is a pioneer in the advertising industry, not just because of their innovative marketing campaigns, but because of their commitment to diversity and to the community.

2. Say No to Bullying, Say Yes to Tacos. With help from a team of Cisco volunteers, the kids at Campbell Middle School in California created four commercials in a campaign against bullying. They learned how to be an "ally" to those who are bullied and encouraged their fellow students to stop bullying at their school. Each commercial gives an example of how to be an ally, and uses what I think is the best tagline of all time.

3. A Garden Grows In Boston: Since 2007, Jack Morton has been transforming kids from Edwards Middle School in Boston, Massachusetts into experiential marketing executives. One of our all-star Jack Morton volunteers, Donald Gregorio, was recently recognized by Boston Magazine for his work with Citizen Schools.

With commitment from volunteers like Donald, our students can confidently say, "Look out Nike! We're coming for you," (as one of them adorably proclaims in this video).

4. Hugs for Thugs: In the fall of 2008, students from Edison Middle School in Brighton, Massachusetts teamed up with advertising executives from the firm, Almighty. After the students selected an issue they cared most about, bullying, they created a PSA.

By promoting one of the simplest human actions, they helped make their school a better place. After all, sometimes we just need a hug.

5. First Night, First Bite. Volunteers from Fidelity teamed up with the kids at McCormack Middle School in Dorchester, Massachusetts to create their own advertising firm called Citizen Agency. They created a campaign in support of First Night Boston, the annual New Year's Eve celebration.

Fidelity Graphic Designer, Cheryl Desjardin, helped the kids create the marketing plan from inception to execution. They even practiced their pitching skills in front of a live panel of judges.Talk about professional development at only 12 years old!

These videos represent five of many marketing apprenticeships Citizen Schools has provided over the years. By learning and experiencing the fast-paced "Mad Men" industry, our kids have become excellent communicators, a skill they'll need in high school, college and any career. Now I bet they'll think twice before fast-forwarding through commercials.

Capturing the Citizen Teacher Experience: Part One

Albert Terc is a Risk Manager at Fidelity Investments in Newark, New Jersey. This fall he is volunteering as a Citizen Teacher. We will be following his apprenticeship experience in a series of stories. This is part one.  My name is Albert Terc and I am ready to change lives. By day I work at Fidelity Investments as a Risk Manager, helping clients mitigate risk and improve business practices.  But this fall, I will become something else.  For once a week at 4:00 p.m., I will be a Citizen Teacher.

I have chosen to volunteer with Citizen Schools New Jersey in Newark. I am leading an apprenticeship on documentary filmmaking, which is one of my lifelong hobbies. I film parades in New York City and blog about them. I like giving people an experience that brings back good memories for them. Volunteering with Citizen Schools is a way for me to share that experience with youth. The students will pick their own topics and learn how to shoot, edit and produce their own film.

Fidelity is a long-time partner of Citizen Schools. I first heard about the program from our public affairs director, and I saw how my company really gets involved with the kids. It was the type of volunteer opportunity I was looking for.  I want to show our youth that they can learn new things, and that adults from all walks of life are here to help them.

I have just completed the first step in the volunteer journey. I attended my first training session, and I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive, and didn't quite know what to expect. However, the staff put me at ease right away. They were very thorough with the material, and they gave us several different approaches to engage and motivate the students.

What I liked most about the training is the fact that I had an opportunity to learn from other people about their experiences. Other Citizen Teachers who had taught before, the Campus Directors and the Team Leaders all shared different parts of the whole experience.

Going into the classroom I think my biggest hurdle will be keeping everyone in my class on the same page. I know middle schoolers might not have the same attention spans as adults. It will definitely be a challenge to keep everyone together and have a polished finished product. However, I am co-teaching with another volunteer from the global business and technology services company Cognizant. We’ll be able to collaborate and bounce ideas off each other so it doesn’t become overwhelming.

I know it will be a challenge, but I am also excited about working with the students. I am looking forward to watching them grow while learning about documentary films. My goal is for them to learn about what it takes to put a project together and collaborate to reach a finished product. If each student can demonstrate a level of confidence that our team goals can be reached, then on a personal level I feel I will have had a positive impact. Perhaps a student can discover leadership skills that he/she never knew existed before. As a Citizen Teacher, I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to strengthen 21st century skills for the students and make it a fun and pleasant experience for all of us.

Thinking about the upcoming first day with my students brings me back to when I was a child. Remember what it was like when you were at that age?  I’m sure you do. It helps when you have to relate to children. It’s going to be an exciting semester, and I can’t wait to get started!

9 Tips for Teaching an Apprenticeship

Lynne Brown is a Manager of Portfolio Lease Administration at Cassidy Turley FHO and a volunteer Citizen Teacher at Citizen Schools. Since 2010 she has taught middle school students in Boston the basics of commercial real estate and real estate development, encouraging students to develop solutions for stalled commercial real estate projects or design problems.  The newest class of Citizen Schools Teaching Fellows gathered in Massachusetts this summer to begin their two-year journey to close the achievement and opportunity gap in America. I was asked to be a part of the training program to help these bright young educators learn a few tricks of the trade.

On Saturday, July 21, I made my way to the panel discussion not quite knowing what to expect.  I was impressed by the sheer magnitude of the group.

My fellow Citizen Teacher, Dan Gonyea of Microsoft, and I talked about our experiences and fielded questions from the group. Our role as volunteers is to lead apprenticeships, which are hands-on courses focused on teaching kids about fields like robotics, web design, mural painting, business management, and more.Apprenticeships are just one part of the expanded learning time model that Teaching Fellows will lead at 31 middle schools this year. They were eager to learn from us and we were thrilled to share why we volunteer.

Between sessions, Dan and I shook hands and chatted with Teaching Fellows from across the country.  Many of them thanked us for giving up our summer Saturday to participate in the panel.

Then it occurred to me that we should have been thanking them for serving some of our nation’s most under-served children.  Instead of pursuing that MBA, JD or the job in the private sector, they have chosen to be expanded learning time leaders in California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New MexicoNew York, North Carolina, Texas and for the first time in IllinoisThank You!

I hope the new Teaching Fellows and Citizen Teachers learn these lessons that will guide them in their apprenticeship classrooms and beyond:

1. Get to know your whole student; there is always something else driving the student’s behavior.

2. Learn as much as you can about your students and what motivates them.

3. The first semester is always tougher.  It does get better (most of the time).

4. It's difficult to be new at something. Remember that teamwork is important for new teachers and new volunteers.

5. Every campus, every semester and every day is different in a middle school.  You will have lots of good days, but you will have some frustrating, down-right bad days. Persevere. When you need something that will benefit your students, it may not be readily available to you.  Keep asking. Be persistent.

6. Keep the lines of communication open between you, your campus, your state headquarters and your Citizen Teachers.

7. Foster connections with your students, their families, your Citizen Teachers and your Citizen Schools peers.  Create a community that centers around your campus.

8. Challenge your students both in the moment and in their visions of the future by expecting more of them until they expect more of themselves.

9. Have fun.  WOW your students and be WOWED by them!

I have been known to say that Citizen Schools changes lives, but it is not just the lives of the students which are changed.  The same can be said of volunteer Citizen Teachers. I participated in the panel that day to help motivate the Teaching Fellows and they in turn motivated and energized me.

This amazing group of Teaching Fellows is ready and determined to make a difference in the lives of undeserved middle school students across the country, and they need help to do it. Being a Citizen Teacher is a life changing experience. Join me, the Teaching Fellow class of 2013 and the middle school students of America in closing the opportunity gap by teaching an apprenticeship this fall.

Are You More Financially Literate than a 6th Grader?

Christopher Flor is a Second Year Teaching Fellow at the Louise A. Spencer School in Newark, NJ. Too often, students are unprepared for the economic practicalities they'll face as adults. Heck, too often, adults are unprepared for the financial and economic realities they're currently facing. It is all too apparent that we need to increase financial literacy instruction (FLI) in our schools and, encouragingly, that movement is gaining ground around the country.

Over the past decade, the Federal Government has placed FLI on its agenda for education reform. As of 2009, 44 states had put in place curriculum guidelines for improving financial literacy across grades K-12.  Of these states, 24 of them require that all students receive instruction in personal finance.  After all, it cannot be overstated that having a basic understanding of personal finance is compulsory for success and stability in the 21st Century.

Citizen Schools has placed itself in the thick of this movement to improve financial literacy among scholars. Strong partnerships with corporations like Fidelity Investments and Bank of America are helping to bring personal finance education to our scholars.

Just this past February, Citizen Schools' programs at Louise A. Spencer and Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary Schools in Newark, NJ,  launched the first Stock Market Game in the national network.  The teams at both of these schools have joined schools around the country in participating in a national competition hosted by the Securities Industries and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA).

The gains in students’ knowledge of financial literacy have been remarkable.  Already, our students can independently research stock quotes and use 21st Century research skills to deduce why a stock performs a certain way and to make informed decisions about predicting how a stock will perform in the future. 

Through this process, students have also learned the basics of how companies and corporations grow, how they raise capital by public trading on the market, and how diversification can protect a portfolio from the damages of risky investments.  But most importantly, students have learned a key skill that has for a long time separated working class citizens from their more wealthy counterparts in society: the understanding that working for money is not the only key to financial success and stability—rather, it is the ability to make your money work for you that generates the most wealth among economically successful citizens.

Nowhere was this incredible learning more evident than at Louise A. Spencer’s Financial Advisors Panel hosted by Fidelity Investments on Tuesday, April 24.  Our students sat attentively before Fidelity Vice President, Scott Bohlen and Fidelity advisors Grevin Rodriguez and Sujatha Sivakumaran as they discussed the realities of working in a competitive job market and gave insights about how to navigate the unpredictable nature of the market.  The interest of our apprentices was evidenced best in their thought provoking questions. Carlos asked, “What are the three best habits I can keep in school to become successful when I grow up?”  Other students asked about how to keep a job and do well in it.  Tyrek inquired about what short selling stock means, while Ebony asked about good college programs for business.

Citizen Schools' programs at Louise A Spencer and Martin Luther King, Jr. schools will wrap up their national competition with SIFMA on May 25.  Be sure to stay tuned to find out how our teams fared against other schools around the country!

Googler, Citizen Teacher, Survivor

Eric Schwarz is the Co-Founder and CEO of Citizen Schools. 

Everyone who teaches middle school is amazing. Those who volunteer to do it are particularly courageous. Those who inspire their companies to support education are remarkable. And then, there's Yul.

Last week at the annual Clark Foundation gathering for leading youth development organizations, I had the chance to meet and introduce Kristen Thiede, a principal at Google and one of their leading innovators. She is employee number two-hundred-and-something (started in 2001) and has worked all over the world for Google, currently on a project to make home internet service 100 times faster. And she's worked hard on their social enterprise collaborations with the Harlem Children’s Zone and others. She’s a rock star!

I was gratified to hear that lots of her friends have volunteered at Citizen Schools, and that we have been held up at Google as a best practice for employee engagement. Meeting Kristen prompted me to refresh my memory about how our organizations came to work together so closely. A refreshing, sexy story of youthful innovation and leadership.

I knew the Google relationship started with Citizen Schools Campus Director and later Program Director, the fabulous Jane Choi, who led our then after-school program at McKinley Institute of Technology in Redwood City from 2004-2006. I remembered that the first volunteers from Google were friends of Jane’s, but that’s as much as I knew; so I emailed Jane the night before my introduction of Kristen to get the full scoop.

Turns out it was an old boyfriend of Jane's named Yul Kwon, who was on the Google legal team. Yul and an engineer friend named Beverly Chan decided to teach, and recruit other to teach, a few apprenticeships in robotics, cooking, poetry, and other diverse topics.

By the second year, so many Googlers were volunteering that Google hired a bus to bring kids to Mountain View. For several years they hosted our WOW! events at their amphitheater, where presidents and other world leaders often speak.

A few years later volunteers from Google offices in Cambridge and New York started teaching too (we launched Citizen Schools NY at Google HQ in lower Manhattan). Now we know of 442 Google employees who have taught apprenticeships at Citizen Schools, and we hope the inspiring team at Google in Chicago will join the ranks starting this fall. (Watch Googlers sell you on the idea themselves!)

Our latest data shows that an amazing 80 percent of kids who take Google apprenticeships – many of them in video game design – say they are interested in careers in science or technology.  This compares to just 33 percent of children their age in the country. By sharing their passion for engineering and computing, Google's people are making a difference for kids that will last their whole lives.

Now, perhaps you recognize the name Yul Kwon. Volunteering at Citizen Schools wasn't the last brave leap he took: he actually competed on the 2006 season of Survivor.  That was the controversial 13th season of Survivor  that divided participants by their ethnicity. Kwon became the ultimate survivor due to his physical prowess and ability to navigate strategically and morally across the different ethnic tribes, and he became a hero to Survivor buffs.

That's a unique resume. But it wasn't Yul's peak. In 2007 People Magazine named Yul one of the sexiest men alive.

Oh, and then in 2009 he became a leader of the Federal Communications Commission for Obama. Now he is hosting a new show on PBS called America Revealed.

I told all this to my 10-year-old daughter, Orla, and she asked if he was now married.  “Yes,” I said, "and with one kid."

“Good,” she said.  “He deserves it.”

I don't know how much Yul thinks about his experience teaching kids in Redwood City now, or realizes he, Jane, and Beverly helped launch a partnership at Google that is now transforming education. But  someday I hope to meet the top managers at Google to thank them. They have built an incredible culture where hundreds of their people can and do venture out to make the world a better place.

I certainly hope we're able to build a culture like that at Citizen Schools, and to inspire it in other companies. I don't know if any of us will be named the sexiest man or woman alive any time soon, but I like to think we have similarly great people making the world a better place.