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Citizen Schools ends the school year on a high apprenticeship note

Citizen Schools ends the school year on a high apprenticeship note

From April through June, coast to coast, Citizen Schools celebrated the school year’s apprenticeship programs with two WOW!NOW breakfasts in Massachusetts and New York and a mock-trial themed benefitEd in California. These events mark the culmination of both the 10-week apprenticeships and also the school year.

Celebrating Our Students: May 2019 WOW! Week Recap

Celebrating Our Students: May 2019 WOW! Week Recap

At the end of each semester, we look forward to WOW! Week, a celebration of our students’ hard work from their apprenticeships. During this celebration, communities of family, friends, and volunteers gathered to view our students’ talents and skills through interactive presentations. Each of our four New York campuses held themed showcases to celebrate these accomplishments.

3rd Annual Get CycED for Citizen Schools

3rd Annual Get CycED for Citizen Schools

On the morning of Saturday, March 30th, in an effort to fight the growing opportunity gap in New York, a group of our dedicated supporters came together to attend a high-energy spin class at SWERVE Fitness. A huge shout-out to our 8 teams that were geared up for a morning of calorie-burning, endorphins-boosting fun. Thanks to their passionate efforts, we were able to raise $46,597!

AmeriCorps Member Spotlight: Madeline Vargas

AmeriCorps Member Spotlight: Madeline Vargas

I decided to become an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow because I wanted to have the opportunity to discover If teaching was a possibility for me. I am currently In school majoring in Early Childhood Education and plan to continue for my B.A. in English Literature with a concentration in Middle School and High School Education.

New App Helps New York City Students Navigate High School Admissions

New App Helps New York City Students Navigate High School Admissions

Choosing a high school in New York City can be a daunting task, with more than 700 programs to choose from in 400-plus schools throughout the five boroughs. Now, a new app helps students and families simplify their search by focusing the choice process on a personalized list of 20 best-fit schools.

Meet the performers at Citizen Schools New York's CT Celebration

Meet the performers at Citizen Schools New York's CT Celebration

This year, hundreds of volunteers mentored and taught our students in NYC!  We cannot thank them enough for their commitment to our young people.  On August 15th, we're celebrating with an evening of comedy and drinks at the PIT in Kips Bay. Citizen Teachers will enjoy two drinks on us while enjoying a comedy performance by some of New York's funniest rising stars!

8th Grade Academy Inspires Creativity in Students

8th Grade Academy Inspires Creativity in Students

It was the excitement to grow as a writer that led Sanai, an 8th-grade student at Urban Assembly Unison to join Citizen Schools 8th Grade Academy. She was a member of multiple apprenticeships, and the staff was impressed by her work ethic and creativeness. Sanai was offered the chance to participate in 8th Grade Academy with like-minded peers.She credits 8GA for helping her develop as a writer and preparing her for high school with the deadlines. 

Branding a Leader

What does it take to be a highly effective leader? Confidence, integrity and action immediately come to mind. But according to Shraddha Nunziata, Citizen Schools’ Campus Director of Renaissance School of the Arts in East Harlem, New York, it doesn't stop there. She shares her journey of discovering why a "personal leadership brand" is another important component in building leadership. When I switched from teaching into campus leadership, my organization, Citizen Schools, invested in my professional development. I learned so much about myself as a leader, skills that I could have leveraged in the classroom had I learned them earlier. One powerful workshop I attended was, “Leadership Styles: Developing the Personal Leader,” facilitated by IBM. IBM performs philanthropy through sharing knowledge and expertise. In lieu of monetary donations, IBM conducts workshops for a range of groups on a wide variety of topics.

I found the IBM leadership workshop particularly compelling because I started the workshop by providing my goals for the session, and I left with a clear plan for myself and my team. The expertise of the presenters, the mix of attendees, and the combination of personalities, meant people were eager to contribute, honestly expressed their opinions, and shared insights into personal leadership development as well as the climate of our organization as a whole.

IBM photo

Having a leadership brand is a basic requirement, but as a teacher-turned-leader, this idea is a life-changing concept. The highly effective leaders around me all have their leadership brands. My principal’s is “get to the point and always say yes”.  My assistant principal’s is “confidence is key”.  What is mine?  My brand should drive my work as a leader; my roles and responsibilities should stem from my brand.  For example, my brand is “cultivating openness through personal honesty”.  It’s still a work in progress, but I know I am an open book and my honesty and openness makes others feel comfortable.

The bulk of my work as a leader should stem from this mantra, so my time should be spent in coaching conversations with my teachers, leading trainings on classroom management, and delegating tasks based on my team members’ personal strengths. I need to eliminate mundane, but surprisingly enjoyable, spreadsheet-based tasks and empower other team members to develop in those areas. To execute on my brand, I should spend the bulk of my time building relationships, fostering vulnerability, and coaching others to reflect on their practice and grow as teachers.

The facilitators of the IBM workshop based most of their key points on the Daniel Goleman article, “Leadership that Gets Results” from the Harvard Business Review. It has a great layout of six leadership styles and their impact on team/organizational climate. The results were surprising: an authoritative leadership style has the most positive effects on climate, followed closely by an affiliative and democratic styles. I had the personal realization that I can make my natural inclination toward affiliative and democratic styles work for me by being more authoritative: establishing a clear vision and empowering others to join me in executing the vision.

My hope is that people who are transitioning into new roles, particularly from teaching, know what’s out there for them in terms of professional leadership development. For any career changer or career advancer, building self-awareness in the context of working with others is key to making an impact. If you, the professional, can identify your strengths and your personal brand, it’s easier to adapt to any environment, flex communication styles, and create a climate that gets results. If you aren’t lucky enough to have the opportunity to participate in an IBM workshop, read the Goleman article for a great primer.


PRESS RELEASE: CA Technologies Supports Citizen Schools' STEM Programs

Press Contact: Holly Trippett, Citizen Schools, 617-695-2300 x1161 or 301-452-3904, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Boston, MA – June 25, 2014– Citizen Schools, a leading national education nonprofit, announced today it has received a $50,000 donation from CA Technologies, a leading IT management software and solutions company, to help fund its science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education for students across six schools in Massachusetts.

Citizen Schools partners with underserved public middle schools to dramatically expand the learning day by 400 hours each academic year. During the additional school hours, the organization mobilizes AmeriCorps Teaching Fellows and volunteers from companies like CA Technologies who provide academic support and teach hands-on “apprenticeships” that help students make the connection between what they are learning now and a future career path. Over half of the skill-building apprenticeships are focused on STEM subjects and activities.

”We are proud to support the important work Citizen Schools is doing to expand educational opportunities for students,” said Erica Christensen, VP, Corporate Social Responsibility, CA Technologies. “Supporting STEM learning is a top priority for CA Technologies, and through initiatives like this we hope to help provide young people with the tools they need to succeed and encourage the next generation of technology leaders.”

The demand for professionals in the STEM fields is projected to dramatically outpace supply over the coming decades. By 2018, the U.S. is expected to face a projected shortfall of 230,000 qualified advanced-degree STEM workers. The Bureau for Labor Statistics also predicts that STEM jobs will grow 55 percent faster than non-STEM jobs over the next 10 years. Among the teenagers who express interest in science and math careers, nearly two-thirds indicate that they are discouraged from pursuing them because they do not know anyone who works in these fields or understand what people in those fields do.

“Our apprenticeships bring relevance and unique hands-on learning opportunities to students, sparking new interests and increasing their engagement in school,” said Tom Birmingham, Executive Director of Citizen Schools Massachusetts. “We are pleased to have CA Technologies as a partner as we work to improve and expand our STEM apprenticeships for the students and schools we serve.”

CA Technologies volunteers have taught apprenticeships to students in Citizen Schools in Boston, MA and New York, NY. The projects in Massachusetts have included “Measuring the Solar System” and “Life is a Laboratory,” where students transform into scientists for a semester. In New York, students created technologies to improve New York City and pitched their ideas to technology executives in “Back to the Future.”

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 CA Technologies

CA Technologies (NASDAQ: CA) provides IT management solutions that help customers manage and secure complex IT environments to support agile business services. Organizations leverage CA Technologies software and SaaS solutions to accelerate innovation, transform infrastructure and secure data and identities, from the data center to the cloud. Learn more about CA Technologies at

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Sheryl Sandberg Leans In to Video Chat with Bronx 6th Graders

The global phenomenon that is Lean In has recently expanded to reach younger and younger audiences. A second edition of the blockbuster book, Lean In For Graduates, adds material directed to recent grads starting their careers. And, as the Ban Bossy campaign demonstrated earlier this year, the message of leadership and ending bias toward women resonates with school-age girls too. Lean In WOW blog post photo 5

That has proven true for a group of 13 sixth graders at Bronx Writing Academy, who signed up for a “Lean In – Girl Power” apprenticeship as part of their expanded learning day. Under the guidance of volunteers from Facebook, they studied issues that women face and used the book as a jumping-off point.

After ten weeks of eye-opening conversations and mentoring, they had an unusual opportunity to share their solutions with a symbol of female empowerment: Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg herself!

Facebook strategist and lead volunteer Kirstin Frazell brought her students to Facebook’s New York office for their final presentation, and turned on the projector to reveal Sandberg via video conference in Palo Alto. Sandberg listened to the thoughtful and passionate reports from each student, and applauded them for tuning in to inequities even as they start envisioning their careers.

"I'm so glad that you are spending time thinking about this,” she said. “The world’s still not equal. It’s still not equal based on gender, it’s not equal based on race. We don’t give the same opportunities to everyone.”

The afternoon video chat was the culmination of a semester-long volunteer project that Frazell and fellow Facebook volunteers Eunice Jin, Katherine Thomas and Emma Zaretsky embarked on through Citizen Schools, which partners with Bronx Writing Academy and 31 other middle schools across the country to provide apprenticeships in a variety of subjects.

The team of Facebook volunteers traveled to the Bronx once a week to teach these students a course they designed with AmeriCorps member Maddie Oliver, who is serving a two-year Teaching Fellowship with Citizen Schools. "I was so excited with how involved the girls got, and how passionate they got about women's issues at their age,” said Frazell. “I wish I had had that."

Their curriculum gave the students the opportunity to study four issues that women face: the gender pay gap, the media's presentation of women and lack of female role models, stereotypes, and gender policing. Each girl kept a journal, and their final project was to present an issue, share how it affects her, and propose a solution to address it.  The audience included their peers, teachers, and Facebook employees—including Facebook’s famous COO.

Lean In WOW blog post photo 1

"We have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible,” quoted Ebony, one of Frazell’s apprentices. "Beyoncé said that, because we cannot let young girls get held back by stereotyping. This matters to me because boys tell me I can’t play basketball because I’m a girl. This makes me feel useless and like I can’t do what boys can do. This is wrong because that’s hurtful and I need to know I can accomplish anything."

Iesha’s presentation emphasized hope. "I believe that equality is possible,” she read.” Men and women are being treated differently, and we can change that. The gender pay gap matters to me because when I get older and become a teacher, I want to be paid the same, as well as treated the same, as the men in my job."

"The most important thing that needs to happen is a great education,” Sandberg told the group. “So for all of you in Citizen Schools, the most important thing we can do to prepare you for your future is to make sure you have a great education, great teachers, and opportunities to do projects like this."

The Facebook volunteers not only provided their students with a chance to learn about the discrimination that they will likely face as they pursue their goals. They also embodied one of the solutions, by serving as successful female mentors themselves. Frazell, Jin, Thomas, Zarestky, and Sandberg are living examples of what female empowerment looks like in the modern workplace.

“You build these lasting relationships with the students and they start to see you as mentors, not just teachers,” reflected Frazell. “I think that’s really important as they’re going through their educational journey.”

Crain's New York Business: Bringing Charter Innovations To Traditional Schools

The charter school revolution of the last few decades has transformed the conversation about education reform in America's large cities, including New York. Data suggests that simply organizing a school through a charter agreement does not guarantee greater student achievement. But some charter schools have used their flexibility to test innovations that seem to make a measurable difference. 8719556047_0705f56835_bAnd as Citizen Schools' New York Executive Director Kathrine Mott writes in an op-ed in Crain's New York Business, the public school system overall should look to what high-performing charters have done in deciding what resources to invest in.

One such variable is the length of the school day....

"Charter schools and traditional public schools alike have implemented this approach in New York City," she writes. "We are already seeing evidence that this can improve academic outcomes."

With the right investment from policy makers, public schools can implement the innovations that work. Schools that have formed partnerships with non-profits like Citizen Schools, for instance, have been able to extend their learning time by several hours each day, and--more importantly--enable students to improve at rates comparable to the highest performing charter schools.

"There is a heated debate in New York City about how public resources are allotted to charter schools," she writes. "Regardless of where one stands on this issue, we can find common ground when it comes to bringing some of the innovative aspects of charter schools into the city's public schools. A good place to start is with a longer school day."

Read the full op-ed, A Charter Lesson To Lift Public Schools, at Crain's New York.

Students Launch a Business with Help from American Express

2013_CitizensSchools_SharkTank_0001 Imagine, you’re shopping for sportswear and your favorite design has a tag that reads, “proudly developed by middle school students at the Urban Assembly School.” Surprised? Don’t be. Thanks to Benjamin van-Rooy, director at American Express, students in the Citizen Schools program in Brooklyn, New York executed the concept and business plan for their own sports apparel business.

Once a week, Ben and his eight-person team of volunteers from American Express left the office early to teach a group of 7th grade students at their school in Brooklyn. These are not your average middle schools students and Ben is not your typical teacher. As part of a longer school day with Citizen Schools, a national organization that partners with public middle schools, these students have the opportunity to work alongside professionals like Ben, in an “apprenticeship” class, where they learn how to start businesses, build robots, invest in stocks, and more.

These hands-on learning experiences taught by volunteers like Ben give students a taste of what it’s like to have a successful career. They expose students to new ideas and skills that inspire them to dream big and get excited about the future.


From the ground up, Ben guided his class through the development of a business plan, the design of their product, and the building of a marketing strategy. Seeing each student light up with enthusiasm about a topic they might not have experienced otherwise was Ben’s favorite part of teaching. The icing on the cake was watching students impress his colleagues and executives on the top floor of the American Express building in New York City when they presented their business plans at the end of the semester.

This opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without Ben’s passion and dedication. We are pleased to recognize Ben van-Rooy, as our volunteer “Citizen Teacher” of the month.  Ben is originally from New Zealand and is a graduate of the University of Auckland Business School.  He currently lives in New York City and has a passion for photography.  We asked him about his teaching experience at Citizen Schools…..


Why were you drawn to volunteering with Citizen Schools?

I’ve always been interested in contributing back to the community that I work in and consider myself lucky to have had a good education. Giving students an expanded learning opportunity that interests them and is targeted toward careers livens up education, and opens students’ eyes to an array of the possibilities before them.

What was your approach to teaching this course?

I couldn’t have done it without my team of seven Citizen Teachers. We all worked together to help prepare the lessons and everyone had a chance to lead one. It was really cool to watch the different levels of professional experience come together in a way not normally seen at work. It helped to develop relationships and understanding of other roles within the company that we didn’t have before. Working with a team, allowed the students to interact with more people and make connections.

What is your biggest take-away from this experience?

There is so much to be taken away for both students and volunteers. I was surprised at how much I learned. Figuring out different ways to present material to make sure everybody understood it was a new skill I can use when giving presentations at work going forward. Teaching the students about business actually allowed students to get creative and strengthen their skills. It was great to see them get passionate about something and put in the effort to build a viable business plan.  I recommend every professional try volunteering with Citizen Schools.


You can inspire students like Ben did by signing up to teach an apprenticeship. You might even be our next Citizen Teacher of the month!

The Perfect New Year's Resolution for You: Volunteering

We have taken the liberty of setting some realistic and rewarding New Year's Resolutions for you-- eat more vegetables, drink more water, and volunteer to teach an apprenticeship with Citizen Schools.

You won't regret it. In fact, when people sign up to be “Citizen Teachers” and lead middle school students through these hands-on learning projects, they often come out of the experience not only feeling a sense of fulfillment, but making amazing connections with students. A New Year's Resolution that makes you feel good and also makes a huge difference in your community? Yes please.

But don't take it from us. Here is what a few of our Citizen Teachers had to say about their transformative experience in the classroom...

5815049613_95d9afc87b_n"One relationship I forged with a student in particular stands out because of his transformation as a person through participating in soccer. It’s one of the most remarkable things I've seen in the school this year. The student went from being non-cooperative with staff members, refusing to participate in the fall apprenticeship, to being the team captain in the spring and helping other teammates do the right thing on and off the field."

   --- Alana Siegner, Massachusetts

"After four weeks of instruction and many topics covered, I brought up a previous lesson to a student assuming that it went in one ear and out the other, but after beginning to reiterate the point the student stopped me and said, "yeah, yeah, I know. You thought I wasn't listening, but I was." He then went on to finish the point I had started to make."

  --- Anthony Bernas, Illinois

"The week after we taught the kids about seasonality and the importance of eating local produce, one of my students told me that her mother was pregnant and she wanted to tell her mother which produce would be the healthiest, most affordable, and tastiest at this time of the year. This made me realize that my students were actually absorbing the information I was giving them and that I was making a difference that could spread into the community as a whole."

  --- Alexandra Yesian, California

10409132805_e56a0cb133_n"We did a lesson about working through our strengths and weaknesses. At the end of the day when we asked the students what they had learned, one girl raised her hand and said, ‘I learned that if I put my mind to it, I can do anything.’ It was incredible that she got that take-away and that she believed that. For me that was the number one example of seeing these kids transform and become more like adults. We all had goose bumps."

- Andrew Blaser, North Carolina

"One of our students seemed quite challenging at first. Knowing that he considered himself an artist, we assigned him the role of creating a banner to use at the WOW! event. He worked diligently in class one day on his assignment and he returned the next week with not one, but two, fantastic drawings! His clear pride in his major contribution was truly gratifying."

  --- Delia Stroud, Texas

"During one of my classes, I discovered a bright and smart young man called Larry. After my first written test, I discovered his handwriting was not very legible and was disturbed by this fact. As a suggestion from my team leader, I bought him a penmanship book. After some effort to get Larry to write in the book, in 5-6 weeks, Larry started writing a story in his book. When I saw this, I was deeply moved by the impact my small action made on Larry. As I write this story, Larry is on his third chapter of his story, written by hand!"

  --- Piyush Modak, New Jersey

"One student in my class seemed incredibly shy and was unwilling to share or almost even speak. I had a 5837020620_1e7ca0e606_nchance to work with her a little bit throughout that class and as she was on her way out the door for dismissal I said to her, "I'm gonna get you to speak in front of the class before the end of the term." She kind of smiled and shook her head. The following week I started off again posing some questions to the class and the first question I asked this girl's hand shot up to answer. That was satisfying."

  --- Matt LeFebvre, New York

Your resolution awaits! Sign up today and change a life in 2014.


A Student's Hope for Education

Rachel Sacks is a former Teaching Fellow at Citizen Schools New York. She is currently pursuing graduate art therapy programs and taking classes at John Jay College.


The Mural Making class display looked more like a museum than a middle school project. Long canvas murals stretched around the room, lay on the floors, and hung on the walls. As I walked around the showcase event, I was amazed to see what the students had learned during their Citizen Schools "apprenticeship" classes. I approached one group of students to ask about their piece, an evocative image of multi-colored hands reaching up for sports balls and college graduation caps. The word “Hope” was emblazoned across the top. One student, Justin, greeted me and began the tour of the mural that he and his teammates, Josniel and Elijah, called, “Hope for Education.”

Led by a talented artist affiliated with Creative Arts Workshops, the students in the mural apprenticeship approached the process of creating their project with rigor. As they explained the decisions they made in selecting each symbol and color, what at first looked like a straightforward picture became something much more complex. These eighth-grade boys, just a month away from graduating from middle school, were aware of the challenges ahead of them. With a certain gravity, they explained the bittersweet depth of the mural.

Their particular hope for education was, as Josniel said, "to get the [graduation] statistics up for Blacks and Latinos." To show this, they placed some of the tan and brown hands lower than the white hands to signify how many young men of color do not finish high school or go onto college.


Countless news articles remind us of the inequities in our education system. A recent report by the Schott Foundation for Public Education revealed that 52% of black males and 58% of Latino males who entered ninth grade in 2006 graduated in four years, as opposed to 78% of white, non-Latino males. Those who do graduate high school are also significantly less likely than their white peers to graduate from college within six years.

This challenge comes through in the strong symbols of the students’ mural. "Hope is small for us, and we have to reach out for it, to get our goals," Josniel said, demonstrating a resolve that the boys all shared. Each facet of the mural merged challenge with courage. They chose red as the background color, “to represent blood and sweat we put into our work, always reaching for our goals.” They included symbols for sports to convey how athletics and education intertwine, explaining that sports help many young men of color get college scholarships.

Yet for all the elements of reality and struggle that the students so honestly depicted, they did not skimp on hope. Their group name, “Rainbow Panda with Golden Wings,” was based on Josniel’s motto-- “because there’s nothing you can’t do, got to just try, put in the hard work. Like Justin can be an NBA player if he dunks enough.”

And with the help of programs like Citizen Schools and the expanded learning time model, students affected by the opportunity gap, whose families often cannot afford private tutors or music lessons, can get the time to dunk enough: three extra hours a day of class time that includes homework support, math enrichment, college prep, and of course, real-world apprenticeship classes like Mural Making.

IMG_20130522_172507_797These opportunities extend far beyond the classroom, shaping the confidence of young people who are given the chance to meet artists, engineers and business executives. With these mentors, they create a tangible product over the course of ten weeks, and develop the confidence and grit they need to succeed.

Armed with their achievements, these young men surely have a sense of what they were reaching for. Besides sharing with me the various high schools they will be attending in the fall, they also shared their dreams for college, sport scholarships, and careers. Elijah wants to attend LSU, and become a marine biologist. Justin wants to play football or become a video game designer. And Josniel wants to attend Harvard or Yale, and become a defense attorney and/or a poet.

With a paintbrush in their hands and dedicated volunteers and teachers behind them, these students aren’t about to let statistics hold them back.


A No-Brainer Investment: Teaching Kids

Kavita Jethwa is a manager at Rothstein Kass, New York and specializes in Alternative Investments audits. She is also a Citizen Teacher with Citizen Schools New York. When I was younger I always thought I would be a kindergarten teacher, but my fascination with numbers and an accounting college course steered me down a different path. So when a colleague told me about Citizen Schools, my interest was peaked. Upon reading about their efforts to expose students, or scholars as we refer to them, in low performing schools to various careers and mentors, I thought to myself, “Here is my chance to see what that life would have been like”.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce children to the magic of numbers through our ten week “Stock Market Game” apprenticeship.

As an instructor of internal training courses at work, I had an inkling of the challenges I would face. But training twenty-somethings is quite different from teaching middle school scholars. More than anything I was surprised by how difficult it is to maintain their focus. The stock market isn’t the most exciting topic for them, and to make the information appealing was quite a challenge.

stock market2My skills of organizing and planning were put to the test to create engaging materials for the scholars. My team and I had this brilliant plan to prepare worksheets that the scholars could complete during each lesson to help them grasp the various concepts. Much to our dismay, middle school scholars do not consider worksheets an interesting learning tool. With the help of our Team Leader, a Citizen Schools staff member who supported us in the classroom, we decided to split the scholars into small groups and have them partake in interactive group discussions and activities. This allowed us to provide the scholars with more individualized attention and conduct our class more effectively.

Despite all the challenges, there were some really rewarding moments as well. We were impressed with the scholars’ degree of knowledge at such a young age. For example, as part of the stock market game, each of the scholars chose two companies for their group to “invest in” and one of the scholars picked Disney. When asked to justify, he said, “They just bought Lucas films, they are going to be making Star Wars movies and making more money." For an eleven year old to put two and two together and understand the impact of such a transaction is really intuitive.

kavita1Another inspiring moment revolves around an exceptionally shy girl in our class who preferred to be a fly on the wall. For the final presentation, the WOW!, she wanted to stay in the background filming the event to avoid speaking in front of people. After we encouraged her, she agreed to present, but was so nervous and on the verge of tears.  However the minute she started talking, we realized that she had not only absorbed the concepts, but had broken through the fear of public speaking. Being a part of that breakthrough is an experience you can't get anywhere else. These two remarkable kids had absorbed the difficult concepts we had been teaching and in the process taught us not to underestimate anyone.

After ten weeks of teaching, I now understand that patience is an extremely important trait when you are training people on a day to day basis. We have to understand other people’s needs, and be adaptable as teachers. Because ultimately it’s not what we want, it’s what the scholars want. The kids are brutally honest but it’s really refreshing. And if they don’t want to learn the way that we want to teach them, we need to change.

And at the end of it all, I would say to all prospective "Citizen Teachers" - be able to go with the flow and don’t get discouraged. Knowing you were able to impact even one scholar makes it all worth it. So stick with it!

I would definitely recommend signing up today and teaching an apprenticeship; there is nothing better than the gift of being given the opportunity to share what you know!

Middle School Girl Takes STEM by Storm

Rachel Sacks is a former Teaching Fellow at Citizen Schools New York. 

Today, I would like to shine the spotlight on a bright, passionate student I met at the final showcase of the spring apprenticeship classes, the “WOW!” event at the Urban Assembly Unison School in Brooklyn last month.

In a room full of chattering 6th graders--mostly boys-- talking about their computer game programming projects with guests, Shamina sat in a corner by the blackboard, focused on her computer. With my passport--a pamphlet of all the questions to ask the students--in hand, I walked over to Shamina, and asked her about her game and her experience in the apprenticeship class.

IMG_20130523_173717_090 (1)Apprenticeships are the cornerstone of Citizen Schools, the “special sauce” of the expanded learning day program. Apprenticeships give students the chance to work with professionals from an array of organizations and draw from their expertise to develop interests and knowhow to succeed in middle school, high school, college, and beyond. Each semester, students are given the opportunity to explore and discover a spark that might change the course of their dreams and their life. For Shamina, it’s her second time in the "Program a Game" apprenticeship, which she took in the fall and chose to take again this spring.

Upon meeting Shamina, one of the first things she told me signaled her pride in her work. “I had the most programming out of everyone,” she says, “because we had a jump.” Not only was the programming more advanced because of the jump-- which the player must make over a monster in her path to move on in the game--but the game was more difficult too.

Like a true craftsperson, Shamina called out the technical challenges of the game. “It’s really hard to do the jump because we have to hit the spacebar and then the side arrow.” Watching her at her computer, (she was still refining the code as we talked,) I had to try her game. And wow, did I get sucked in for a bit. It was surprisingly tough to do the jump over that monster! Shamina said that’s why people in her class liked her game-- because it was a challenge.

That Shamina enjoys the challenge is part of what makes this conversation so exciting, and her experience so rewarding. Like a downward ladder, the numbers of women and minorities taking high level math and science courses and performing well drops at each stage of education, from elementary, to secondary education, to college. Though girls demonstrate higher enrollment numbers and grades in high school math and science classes, very few go on to study these subjects in college, graduate with these degrees or go into STEM fields. And despite constituting 47% of the US workforce, women have much lower representation in many science and engineering careers, and comprise only 11% of engineers.

IMG_20130523_174331_766 (1) (1)So what is the key factor behind this downward ladder? Confidence. The longer girls have been in school, the more they seem to question their ability in the traditionally male-dominated areas of math and science that lead to rewarding and vital STEM careers.

STEM-based apprenticeships give girls, as well as all youth of color, the chance to become more comfortable with math and science before they have the chance to become wary of the subject matter. Perhaps they’ll even have the chance to develop a love for it, as they have more opportunities to ask questions, and have fun with real-world STEM jobs.

After giving up on getting over that monster --I managed once or twice, but had to admit defeat-- I asked Shamina if she saw herself pursuing this as a career. She said she wasn’t sure if she wanted to do technology work because she loves to draw and wants to pursue that, but that she’s considering graphic design.

But watching her work with the code while we were talking? The girl’s a natural.

To inspire more students like Shamina at the pivotal age of middle school, share your expertise by teaching an apprenticeship this fall with Citizen Schools. By volunteering to teach an apprenticeship, you can share your spark.

For more information on girls and minorities in STEM fields:






The Atlantic Cities: Putting Inner City Students on a Path to High-Paying Jobs, For Real

The Atlantic Cities May 9, 2013

Putting Inner City Students on a Path to High-Paying Jobs, For Real

Citizen Schools is featured here with a highlight on Global Tech Prep in Harlem, NY. The piece looks at model and impact of apprenticeships, including an interview with current Citizen Teacher and one of the earliest Boston alumni, Michael Andrew. Read the piece.

So Much More Than a Fundraiser

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

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

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

Event Details:

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

The Boston Marriott Copley Place

Register Here

2. Calling All Citizens, New York, New York

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

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

Event Details:

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

Where: Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center

Register Here

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

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

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

Event Details:

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

Where: Mint Museum Uptown

Event Website

4. BenefitED, Mountain View, California

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

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

Event Details:

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

Where: Computer History Museum

Register here

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

It's Not All Rainbows and Sunshine, But it's Worth It

Jessica Eddy is a first year Teaching Fellow with Citizen Schools New York. She delivered this speech at a Citizen Schools New York event. When I was first asked to be tonight's Teaching Fellow speaker, I grappled with one question: How do I be completely honest about my fellowship experience, but leave my listeners with a renewed sense of hope in the work that we do? Most of you can probably relate to this dilemma, as I’m pretty sure you’d agree that our jobs are far from easy, the hours are long, and the roles we play in closing the achievement gap are anything but glamorous. However, after a bit of reflection, I decided that the best way to do this would be to tell you a little bit about where I was at the beginning of the fellowship and where I am today.

Jessica Eddy

My decision to become a Teaching Fellow in New York involved much more than a desire to give back to my community. It also reflected an eagerness to become active in what many have come to refer to as the most pressing civil rights issue of our time. I not only wanted to help students who looked like me get the education I was so fortunate to receive, but I also wanted to be a part of making sure they had access to professional opportunities that would ground their learning and bring more meaning to their school day. I saw an outlet for me to accomplish these things within the Citizen Schools model, and so I decided to sign up.

But, during the very first day of program, on that fateful Thursday, September 6, all of my thoughts about civil rights in education, and justice, and access to professional opportunity, and school day significance were replaced by two very simple words that I’m confident we've all gotten used to hearing: behavior management.

Oh, yes. I will never forget the whirlwind expressions on my co-workers faces during our first post-program meeting when our Campus Director casually asked how everything went. As for me, I was sweating, my body felt like it had been run over by an 18 wheeler, and I was completely stunned by the attitudes these 11 and 12-year-olds carried, most of them half my size.

As the weeks progressed, I would quickly learn that it didn’t stop just at attitudes. I would later explain to my grandmother, “they throw fits, they throw chairs, and they throw each other.” Behavior management? My boss told me I was doing an excellent job but it honestly felt like I was not managing a thing. I felt it, and so did the kids.

Needless to say, the pressure was on, and it began to build. Students’ attitudes and behaviors became worse, our relationship with the school day teachers started to fall apart at the seams, the amount of deadlines outside of the classroom increased, a work life balance did not exist, our campus director resigned, and, to my utter dismay, I began to develop wrinkle lines on my forehead. I was disillusioned and in survival mode, just trying to make it from one day to the next, just trying to prep my lessons and materials, and to stick to my campus schedule the best I could.

And in all honesty, I began to view student achievement as an added bonus to my work, not as my daily goal. “I will help those students who show me they want to be helped. I will teach those who want to learn, and I will help bring opportunity to those open to accepting it.” These were my thoughts, and I didn't care if they meant I was a bad teacher. They helped me navigate what was beginning to feel like a hopeless situation.

It turns out that my discontent was becoming known to everyone, even my supervisors. When I first met my interim supervisor Chad Vignola, he smiled and said “Jessica Eddy, so you’re the one I was told to stop at the end of each day and ask to please stay on board.” I was amused by this remark, and it became an inside joke between Chad and me.

But to date, nothing hit me harder than when one of my students, the extremely mischievous yet completely adorable Joan Cruz, peered up at me with his squinting little eyes and asked, “Ms. Eddy, are you going to leave us? Are you going to quit?” I was floored and had no idea how to respond. “I won’t leave you, Joan,” was all I could muster up.

It was in that moment, for the very first time, that I recognized the value of my work. If nothing else, I came to know that I represent a steady force in students’ lives, someone they look forward to seeing everyday just as much as they look forward to driving crazy, and someone they know will stick it out with them and for them when times are hard.

That one little question showed me just how closely my students were watching me, how accustomed they were getting to having me around (no matter how much they yelled that holding kids hostage until 6 o clock was illegal), and how much they wanted me to help them succeed. I renewed my investment that evening, and planned to make relationship building with my students a more regular part of my plan for their academic and personal success.

I won’t lie to you and say it’s been all rainbows and roses from then on. The work is still incredibly difficult, and finding ways to engage students in all aspects of program presents itself as a daily challenge. But I've seen my students make amazing personal and academic strides just by knowing someone is in their corner, rooting for them, and has no intention of walking away.

As for Joan, his attitude has improved, he can identify math patterns more quickly than he could during first semester, and he is more focused on developing his career as a professional wrestler than I’ve ever seen him. Last week, when I made the announcement that it was time to pack up and put up the chairs, he yelled out, “No! I don’t want to leave Citizen Schools right now!” “Joan, I’m going to have to record you saying that,” I said, beaming. But what I probably meant to say was, “I don’t want to leave just yet, either.”

This work is hard. But the impact is real. Join Jessica Eddy and incredible class of Teaching Fellows, and change lives. Apply to the National Teaching Fellowship today. 

The Opportunity of an Expanded School Day

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

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

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

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

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

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