Houston Super Bowl Host Committee and NFL Foundation Donate $4 Million to 78 Houston Non-Profit Organizations

HOUSTON, TX (Feb. 2, 2017) – Touchdown Houston, a charitable giving program created by the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee (HSBHC) in partnership with the NFL Foundation, will contribute $4 million in grants to 78 local, non-profit organizations, it was announced today. A long-term contribution to the city, these grants will leave an impact on all 11 counties of Houston by concentrating on three key areas: education, health and community enhancement.

Citizen Schools Texas Names “Dialogue Houston” and “Interchange” Producer/Host Laurence Payne Board Chair

  HOUSTON - September 7, 2016 - Citizen Schools Texas is pleased to announce Laurence “Larry” Payne, Vice President of The Desir Group, as Chairman of Citizen Schools Texas Advisory Board.  Citizen Schools is a national non-profit that partners with middle schools in six states to provide an expanded learning day for students in lower income communities to help bridge the opportunity gap which exists between them and their more affluent peers.

“Larry will be a tremendous leader for our board,” said Greg Meyers, Executive Director of Citizen Schools Texas. “The knowledge, passion and experience he brings through his years of leadership and service within the public, educational, religious and nonprofit sectors, will be invaluable to the Board of Directors.”


Payne has over 40 years experience in public service, education and not-for-profit and religious leadership.  He has held various positions at the city, state and congressional levels, and previously served as President and CEO of Houston Habitat for Humanity.  He currently serves as Vice President of The Desir Group, a human capital management, education, training and consulting firm based in Houston. At Citizen Schools Texas, Payne was a founding member of the board, and has been active in supporting the children and efforts of Citizen Schools Texas in that capacity for more than five years. Payne appears weekly on the public affairs show “Dialogue Houston,” which, in it’s 21st year, airs on HCC-TV and KUBE-TV, and on talk radio show “Interchange” on KYND-AM.

“To create the Houston we want to be known by we must stop new problems from becoming old problems and old problems from getting older,” said Larry Payne.  “We must act now as citizens and become engaged in our children’s future.”

Media Contact:

Whitney Buckley whitneybuckley@citizenschools.org | 617-699-1373


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 http://www.citizenschools.org/


From 6th Graders to CEOs

Citizen schoolsDo you remember when you first learned what a budget is? It probably wasn’t in school and it might not have been until you were presented with a situation where you needed to know how to manage one. Students are often unprepared to deal with the finances and economic realities they face as they enter adulthood. Even adults are often unaware of how to best manage their finances. Greg Crowe wants to change that. As a senior vice president at Wells Fargo and a veteran banker, Greg knew it was important to pass his financial knowledge onto his sons as they were growing up. “I knew I wanted to share this with more kids though. We’re faced with learning about financial planning when we get into the real-world. Young people can encounter difficulties if they don’t learn it at an early age. It’s not rocket science; it’s a lack of knowledge,” said Crowe.

This spring Greg is teaching the “Your Financial Future” apprenticeship to a class of sixth graders at Patrick Henry Middle School in Houston, TX. Students are learning the ins and outs of balancing a budget and are given real-world challenges each week.

“I wanted an authentic scenario as our basis for teaching the financial literacy curriculum,” said Greg. “We began with each student representing a four-member household. They were given a job, weekly salary, house, car, and set expenses. We outlined a one month cash flow, noting what funds were fixed and what was discretionary.”

He adds, “They also had options such as choosing a fancy car or a premium TV package. We then encouraged them to think of the future and see how much they could save if they planned ahead. The students quickly began to understand the purpose of a budget.”

By providing the students with relatable scenarios, they were already gaining the concept of planning and budgeting after the first few classes. They also apply their math skills during Greg’s weekly challenges. They have had to figure out gas allowances based on their weekly mileage, decide whether they could afford a trip to Disney World and plan for a weekly grocery shopping trip based on their needs and wants.

“My goal in teaching this course was go beyond teaching the students financial planning, but getting them to really think about spending and appreciating money rather than focusing on their desires like a new pair of shoes,” said Greg. “The students have a short attention span though so I try to use different tactics to emphasize the same point from a new angle.”

Half way through the semester, he transitioned the class from focusing on a family’s budget to a company’s budget. “In this scenario, each student is a CEO. Everyone has the same hypothetical company, which in our case is an oil company. We gave them a cash flow for the first three months of the year and projections of what’s to come in the next quarter and what’s happening in the industry.”

Greg took what was presented in their personal budget management and is creating new challenges as they further grasp the concepts. “We told the students that their cash flow is dwindling and they will be expecting a call from their banker soon concerning the repayment of a loan. The students have to think of ways to convince the banker that they will be able to repay the loan. They roleplay with one student playing the role of CEO and one as the banker in this challenge. They sit in the room negotiating, the banker gives objections, and the CEO has to confidently present three ideas to ultimately save the company,” said Greg.

The students are not only grasping essential financial concepts to apply to their personal lives and a business environment, but they are also practicing their math skills and learning negotiation tactics. The students will enter seventh grade already transformed into financial advisors, ready to help a family or company balance their finances utilizing their budgeting skills learned in the class. For their final challenge the students will advise their families, teachers, and peers on budgeting and planning for the future during their WOW! event next month.

Making Sure Students Succeed By Serving

Malcolm Morse is a first year Teaching Fellow in Houston, Texas.  americorp_logo20I count myself lucky. I always had people around me who inspired me, people who I looked up to and admired. I participated in activities like Boy Scouts and church choir that put me around older people who were successful and hard working. I remember thinking, if this is working for them, it can work for me. But not all kids have the same opportunities and I have friends who didn’t have the same level of support, who weren’t as fortunate.

That’s why I like what we’re doing at Citizen Schools in the AmeriCorps National Teaching Fellowship. The choice to take school seriously and make it something that you can use to better your future happens at a young age. We’re here to make sure it happens for our students during those very important middle school years.

Some people might shy away from it, but I wanted to be with the 6th graders. There are definitely some tough days where the kids will push your buttons, but they are so malleable at that age. I was fortunate enough to have positive influences outside of school when I was their age but, I didn’t have any young, cool teachers who cared about me in school. That connection is important when you’re trying to get them excited about their education. Just by getting to be with them every day at school and building connections with them is doing a huge service.

Winter WOW! 2013 067As a Teaching Fellow, we have several jobs in one. We teach lessons, manage behavior, mentor, counsel, analyze data, support other teachers, and more. Now I understand and respect the plight of the teacher because there is so much work to do, but you can see the impact in small ways every day.

In the mock trial apprenticeship I helped lead in the afternoon, the students didn’t seem to be excited or ready for their mock trial event at the end of the semester. I was very discouraged and was starting to worry that they wouldn’t even show up. But when the day came, not only was every student there, but they instantly transformed into serious mature young people when they excitedly changed into their professional clothes. One student even wore a tuxedo to look like an extra sharp lawyer. They did an incredible job, and I was so proud. Moments like that make me realize that the students are growing and so am I.

photo (9)A lot of people don’t take the time to do programs like AmeriCorps before they go on to pursue their careers, but there are so many reasons why they should. It does make a difference. It might not be lucrative, but it gives you a chance to do something for the love of doing it, something that really matters. You’ll grow so much during this experience and you’ll take that perspective with you when you go on to pursue the next step in your career.

At some point years down the road, at a random moment in my life, I hope that a young man or woman comes up to me and says, “Hey Mr. Morse, do you remember me?” I feel as if the ultimate reward for teachers is to see how much their students grow and succeed in life and that’s what inspires me to show up every day ready to make a positive impact.

You can make a positive impact like Malcolm by applying to be an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellowship today. 

Houston's Got Style

So you're an ambitious, adventurous college senior about to set out on a path to career success. As you consider the The National Teaching Fellowship, consider this: Citizen Schools operates in eight unique states. This is the second of a regional series to profile each of our locations. This installment: Houston.

1. Belt Buckles go out on the town.

The Teaching Fellowship is a rewarding and challenging experience. In addition to teaching middle schools students, Fellows must also learn how to live on a stipend.  Although all Teaching Fellows quickly learn to budget grocery bills and eating out, our Texas Fellows find a bigger value in their culinary options.

According to Kat White, “Texas cuisine is a mash up and has a well-deserved reputation for being mind-blowingly, belt-busting-ly good.”  Barbeque, Tex-Mex, Soul Food, Cajun, Creole, and of course, steaks are traditional favorites.

Because the cost of living in Houston is lower than other Citizen Schools regions, Fellows can be found enjoying inexpensive restaurant meals in outdoor seating.  And true to the saying, “Everything is bigger in Texas,” Fellows take the rest of their huge portions home for an addition meal.

2. Belt buckles sparkle in the sunshine.

Citizen Schools utilizes the community to help students shine their inner lights and passions.  In addition to becoming part of the national community of AmeriCorps members, Teaching Fellows quickly become part of local outings offered in their city's spaces.

Kat White adds that Houston’s warmer weather allows green space lovers to thrive.  Because of the affordable cost of living, residents may have a greater chance of having a backyard, porch, or garden at their houses.  Fellows and staff head to Houston’s downtown park, Discovery Green, which offers everything from free classes of Zumba and Yoga, outdoor movies with live music soundtracks, and lawn games.

If you’re like first-year Teaching Fellow Christina Cooley, you might even join an intramural sports kickball league, or run along the Buffalo Bayou trail.  Native Texan Alicia Vasquez also suggests the Miller Outdoor Theatre for concerts.  After such busy and long days in the classroom, both first-year fellows recommend a donation-based Yoga studio.

3. Belt Buckles go with all outfits.

Since 1995, Citizen Schools has been re-imagining the learning day to bring more time, volunteers, and relevant learning to middle-school students in low-income neighborhoods.  By getting citizens into the classroom, we’re closing the achievement and opportunity gaps and increasing student access to opportunity.

With different Texas constituents gathering in the classroom bringing their personal cultural experiences, it’s no surprise that Houston is the most diverse city in the country.  Houston is also home to education reform partner KIPP, and hosts major players such as Teach for America, Yes Prep, Harmony Schools, Education Pioneers, Breakthrough Collaborative, Stand for Children, and more.

4. Belt buckles are travel sized.

Citizen Schools has grown from a Boston program to one that serves in eight states.  We hit the road to expand to Chicago this year, and if you live in Houston, you’ll be hitting the road too and taking that belt buckle for a drive.

A car is important to have when living in Texas.  Although there may be traffic, Christina Cooley suggests additional adventures to Austin, College Station, Waco, Dallas, and San Antonio being worth the drive. Such destinations feature a favorite pastime of fellows and staff: sitting in an inner tube, floating down a river.  If inner tubes and rivers are not your scene, other fun festivals recommended by fellows include the GatorFest (dedicated to Gators) and the Renaissance Fair.

Regardless of your style preferences, keep your mind open to belt buckles and Houston as a region to serve as a National Teaching Fellow. The next application deadline is December 3rd. Don't wait to purchase a new belt buckle and make Houston your new stomping ground. Apply today.

"Waiting for 'Superman'" and Michelle Rhee

On Wednesday, May 4th, Citizen Schools is proud to collaborate with the Texas Education Center and StudentsFirst to present a town hall discussion on ways that the community can come together around public education. Excerpts from the acclaimed documentary film, "Waiting for 'Superman'", will be shown in addition to a keynote speech from former Washington D.C. Public Schools Chancellor, Michelle Rhee. The event will be held from 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. at the Cullen Theater, Wortham Center at 550 Prairie Street in Houston.

The film, "Waiting for 'Superman'" by renowned director Davis Guggenheim, is based off of the book with the same title by Karl Weber. Citizen Schools Co-Founder and CEO Eric Schwarz wrote a chapter in the book outlining the importance of engaging ordinary citizens in the public education system. As we work to save our students from struggling schools, we encourage you to join us in the local and national discussion on how to achieve this! This event is free and open to the public.