North Carolina

Director of Instructional Design, Lauren tell us, the Joy in the Work is in the Connections you Make

Director of Instructional Design, Lauren tell us, the Joy in the Work is in the Connections you Make

Here at Citizen Schools, the work that we do everyday would not be possible without our amazing employees. All who go above and beyond their everyday call of duty to ensure that our young people, schools and communities get the best that they deserve. Each month, we are going to spotlight one amazing Citizen Schools employee. Here is our first one, Lauren Chamberlain

Working Alongside Teachers, Volunteers Help Bring Real-World Learning Experiences to the Classroom

Working Alongside Teachers, Volunteers Help Bring Real-World Learning Experiences to the Classroom

Amy Hoffmaster, Managing Director of Program Innovation got the chance to sit down and chat with Melissa Arellano, who is a 7th grade science teacher at Sedgefield Middle Schools in North Carolina about her experience working in the Catalyst pilot program.

TF Spotlight: Tieyenna Maxwell

TF Spotlight: Tieyenna Maxwell

I chose to serve with Americorps as a Teaching Fellow because I believe that each child deserves to be believed in. I wanted to impact my students the same way that I was impacted by my greatest teachers, with love, patience, and understanding.

AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow Spotlight: Q&A with Mykia Richards from Citizen Schools North Carolina

I always knew I wanted to work with youth but wasn’t sure in what capacity. Did I want to be a teacher or did I want to work for an organization that indirectly impacted the lives of youth? I wasn’t sure. To test out the waters on the teacher side, I thought I would apply for Teach for America. I would be able to test out my teaching skills for a limited time period and sort of get my feet wet in a field that I wasn’t too sure I wanted to enter. I was so excited about all of the great things I had heard about Teach for America and was ready to apply until I came across Citizen Schools at a career fair.

A Teacher's Perspective on the Expanded Learning Day

Female student smiling in front of lockersAmy Bednar is a teacher at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina. Here is her take on how Expanded Learning Time and Citizen Schools are impacting her school community.  How long have you been involved in the education field?

This is only my second year as a teacher at MLK. However, I have been involved in the field from a young age - always reading with elementary children, working at summer camps, working as a peer tutor in college, and volunteering with after-school programs.

What brought you to the education field?

I have always wanted to be a teacher. In every autobiography I wrote for school growing up, I wrote that I would be teaching (and illustrated myself beautifully of course!). My little brothers had to sit through countless "lessons" with me, and I loved going to work with my dad to use the copy machine. My mom is also a teacher, so I guess that rubbed off pretty well! I was always the girl who loved going to school. I am naturally curious, so everything interested me. I also had awesome teachers who went above and beyond to ensure we had what we needed to be successful. I went into teaching to instill this love of learning onto the next generation and to be as influential and inspirational to my students as my teachers were (and still are) to me. Plus, I get to continue doing what I love to do!

What are your views on expanded learning time?

As a teacher, I absolutely love it. I appreciate how Citizen Schools supports us in reinforcing important topics after school. We only have 90 minutes per day to teach, which sounds like a lot, but it most definitely is not! The students are able to get the extra attention that they need after school in a smaller class setting and expand their knowledge with extension activities. Citizen Schools also reinforces important middle school habits such as the importance of completing homework, how to develop study skills, how to set and achieve goals, and how to use an agenda. I love how the program emphasizes the same values that we hold in the first shift, so our students are really getting what they need to be successful.

How do you see the Citizen Schools program impacting your students?

The biggest impact that I see Citizen Schools having on my students is giving them the confidence they need to be successful and happy in class. However, they are not only improving their academic skills and developing study habits. They are also given opportunities to engage in activities that they would not have time to do during the regular school day, such as apprenticeships. The WOW! event is my absolute favorite night of each semester. During these events, I see my students visibly light up while presenting everything that they have learned and experienced. My students speak with such passion because they are interested in what they chose to pursue. Their preparation is evident and I can see the pride on their faces. This confidence follows them into the classroom and helps them see that they can accomplish what they put their minds to do.

North Carolina Students WOW! the Crowds

A Neal Middle School student shows offs his golf swing What happens when middle school students present to a group of adults on topics like the physics behind a golf swing, how to invest  in the stock market, or how to launch a rocket? Chances are, they won’t just be impressed, but they will say “WOW!” From top executives of major companies to parents and teachers, the adults that fill the room at the culminating WOW! events are consistently blown away by what students have learned with volunteer “Citizen Teachers” over the course of a semester in Citizen Schools.

This spring things were no different at three schools in North Carolina...

Students from Citizen Schools’ three North Carolina partner schools in Durham and Charlotte presented what they learned throughout the semester to over 800 guests including a member of Senator Richard Burr’s office. They might have been a little nervous, but it didn’t show. With confidence, they demonstrated how a robot operates, how a computer works, and their design for an air quality sensor that will be used in the community.

After the Lowe’s Grove WOW!, one parent commented, “Our son has received more educational and real life experience than we could have imagined…[He] was able to meet various professionals in different industries from biologists to electrical engineers ... We believe this will help him diversify his outlook on what field he would like to pursue in college."

The true “WOW!” moments are when students wow themselves, like when Angie and Tyresse from Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Charlotte shared  essays they wrote on their hopes and goals for the future:

Angie, a Martin Luther King, Jr. 6th grader, speaks at the school's WOW!

“When I grow up I want to be a crime scene investigator. I know I will impact the world in so many different ways. All the children in the world will be someone when they grow up,” said 6th grader Angie.

"My dream is to become a psychologist and help people who have a disorder. I believe those who are Autistic are born with a gift. Autistic people will show the world that they are smart, genius people who can do anything in the world," said 7th grader Tyresse.

And just like that, an aspiring  crime scene investigator and psychologist are on their way to making a difference in their communities.

These are just a few of the many moments that keep volunteers coming back to work with middle school students in North Carolina, and across the country. Sign up to volunteer this semester and see for yourself, that all students are capable of amazing you.



US2020 PRESS RELEASE: US2020 Announces 7 Cities as Winners of its STEM Mentoring Competition at the White House Science Fair


Responding to the President’s Call to Action, US2020 Announces 7 Cities as Winners of its STEM Mentoring Competition at the White House Science Fair

City Competition Winners Announced as Part of Multi-Year Campaign to Boost STEM Mentorship Across the Country

Media contact: Oscar Robles, US2020, 347.977.0022 (cell),

WASHINGTON, DC – Today at the White House Science Fair, responding to President Obama’s call to action to get more girls and boys engaged in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), US2020 announced seven cities as the winners of a national competition to encourage mentoring in STEM.

Sponsored by Cisco and launched at the Clinton Global Initiative, the US2020 City Competition challenged cities to develop innovative models for dramatically increasing the number of STEM professionals mentoring and teaching students through hands-on projects.  US2020 is specifically focused on increasing STEM opportunities and STEM excitement for girls, underrepresented minorities, and children from low-income families.  Public/private coalitions from 52 cities across the nation applied, engaging nearly 600 companies and civic organizations.

The 7 winning city coalitions, representing over 200 companies and organizations are:

The winners will share $1 million in financial, consulting, and staff support over the next year to help start local movements around STEM mentoring, including:

  • Communications consulting and training with Discovery Communications;
  • Funds to hire a local project manager (Grand Prize Winners only: Allentown, PA, Chicago, IL, and Research Triangle Park, NC);
  • Cohorts of capacity-building  AmeriCorps VISTA members;
  •  Access to US2020’s state-of the-art volunteer matching platform, built in partnership with Tata Consultancy Services;
  • Management consulting services from US2020 and external partners; and
  • Membership in the US2020 community of practice.

The plans developed by these seven cities represent some of the country’s most innovative thinking in engaging underrepresented and underserved youth in STEM.  To learn more about each city and for local contact details, visit their mini-profile pages here: AllentownChicagoIndianapolisPhiladelphiaResearch Triangle ParkSan Francisco, and Wichita.

Cisco is a founding partner of US2020 and the official sponsor of the US2020 City Competition. Cisco continues to build upon its two-decade long commitment to STEM education, supporting major programs to develop a robust pipeline of students interested in entering STEM fields.  “Our nation faces a stark but significant challenge: how do we encourage more young people to enter STEM fields and ensure that America remains competitive on the global stage,” said Blair Christie, Cisco’s Chief Marketing Officer.  “In addressing this challenge, we open the door of opportunity to a diverse new generation of young people.  Cisco is so pleased to be a partner of US2020 and the City Competition.  It’s part of our enduring commitment to increasing America’s talent pipeline by supporting bold and innovative STEM mentoring programs.” As part of its commitment to US2020, Cisco has pledged that 20% of its U.S. workforce will volunteer 20 hours or more in STEM mentoring by 2020.

Discovery Communications, parent company to the Discovery Channel, among others, has announced it will join US2020 as its exclusive media partner.  Leveraging its entire suite of networks and services, Discovery will develop a Public Service Announcement, which will star MythBusters' and Science Channel's Head Rush host Kari Byron, and will be focused on motivating girls and minorities to pursue STEM careers.  The PSA will air nationally across Discovery’s portfolio of 14 U.S. networks later this summer.  Additionally, Discovery Education, with US2020, will take students on a virtual field trip to the White House Science Fair as part of their Of The People: Live From the White House webinar series.  Discovery also will provide US2020 and its partners with a day-long summit focused on building marketing and communications campaigns and launch a mentor program with Discovery’s STEM-focused employees.  “We are extremely proud to support this fantastic STEM initiative.  Education is part of Discovery’s DNA and from our first broadcast, we set out to educate and entertain viewers about the world around them.  Helping to build the next generation of STEM professionals is an important part of our mission, and we are pleased to partner on this critical program, providing resources and platforms to drive this important goal,” said David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications.

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), in partnership with US2020 and Citizen Schools, has committed 25 AmeriCorps VISTA members, an investment of more than $550,000, to do the important work of engaging communities in this STEM mentoring initiative. Fifteen of these capacity-builders will serve in the winning cities, while 10 will support efforts nationwide.  “Our nation's success depends on helping every child reach his or her full potential in life,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of CNCS. “We know the difference a mentor makes, and STEM mentoring can ignite a passion for math and science, building ladders of opportunity students might otherwise never have. We’re proud that US2020 is part of the STEM AmeriCorps family -- and just as proud that AmeriCorps VISTA members will strengthen STEM opportunities for students across the country.”

“Identifying and supporting programs that promote a healthy and robust STEM talent pipeline is crucial to the United States’ economic and national security,” said Pam Erickson, vice president of Corporate Affairs for Raytheon, a founding partner of US2020. “The US2020 City Competition has identified key programs that will provide new opportunities for businesses like Raytheon to help equalize access to STEM careers for underserved populations.”

Chevron announced today it has become the newest corporate partner of US2020, as part of its commitment to supporting hands-on STEM education. “Few things are more important to young people and the future of American competitiveness than a quality education,” said Blair Blackwell, manager of education and corporate programs at Chevron. “Our company not only provides financial support to hands-on and project-based STEM programs, our employees have also invested countless hours in mentoring the next generation of innovators.  We look forward to working with US2020 on expanding mentorship opportunities, especially with underrepresented youth.”

US2020 has announced a partnership with Department of Energy (DOE) and its Office of Economic Impact and Diversity and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.  US2020 and DOE will begin working together and sharing resources including DOE’s Women @ Energy and Energy Literacy programs.  US2020 is also exploring ways to support DOE’s work with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to bring both mentoring and energy literacy into the outreach models for public housing authorities as part of a national pilot program.

This summer the US2020 volunteer matching platform will go live and provide cities, and corporate and educational partners with a powerful tool to engage professionals in STEM education nation-wide.  Tata Consultancy Services is a founding and technical partner and the pro bono developer of the platform.  "TCS is proud to be building US2020's dynamic online platform that will match industry professionals with best-in-class career mentor programs, serving underserved groups, at-risk youth and minorities." said Surya Kant, President of TCS North America, U.K. and Europe. "We are excited to see this platform support and accelerate STEM education across these impressive city initiatives, and nationally across the U.S."

Together, these cities, US2020 and its partners are pushing forward a movement.  The vision of this movement is an America where every child, especially every girl, every child of color and every child from a low-income family, has the opportunity to be inspired to pursue a STEM career.

US2020’s founding partners are Cisco, Cognizant, Raytheon, SanDisk and Tata Consultancy Services, now joined by Chevron, with additional support coming from Discovery Communications, Fidelity Investments, HP, Salesforce, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

About US2020

US2020 is a new organization formed through a partnership of leading education non-profits and corporate leaders in the STEM field. The long-term goal of the initiative is to mobilize 1 million STEM mentors annually by the year 2020, creating millions of moments of discovery – those life changing events when children launch rockets, build robots, write a computer program, or look into the farthest reaches of the universe.  US2020 relies on a committed and growing community of public, private, non-profit, and individual partners. US2020 will be incubated by Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit organization focused on expanding learning time for middle school students across the country, through mid-2014.

Showing Students How to Dream Big

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

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

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

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

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

Students presenting their brands to executives at Bank of America

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Citizen Schools Helped My Student and My Family: A Parent's Story

This post was adapted from the speech that Koren Underdue, a Durham business owner and parent of a Citizen Schools student, delivered at the Expanding Opportunity event in Durham, North Carolina.  12814719703_78c8b624e6_z

Citizens Schools truly helps bridge the gap between our educational system and the real world. It teaches our young people (who I must remind you, are our future business leaders) skill sets that they may not necessarily learn in the classroom, and unfortunately, some not even at home. They focus on core success principles and values that our children can apply to every aspect of their lives. This program allows them to not just discover their dreams and aspirations, but achieve them at a much higher level than some could have ever imagined. As a parent, it is such an honor to share my story and my great experience with the Citizens Schools program in Durham, North Carolina.

I remember when my husband and I found out that we were getting a new addition to our family. No, it wasn’t a new baby; it was my first cousin’s daughter, Denaisha. My sweet, dear cousin had asked if we could help raise her 11-year-old at the time. Instantaneously, my husband and I said, "No problem," and we vowed we would care for her like she was our very own.

So in addition to our two small children, we now have a sixth grader. We thought, what are we going to do? (Side note: my biggest fear in raising kids is raising pre-teens and teenagers.)  On the other hand, I just had to imagine what she may have been going through as well. Imagine being a young girl and your life just went through a major transition. Having to move from New Jersey to North Carolina, having to obey and adhere to more rules than ever, and having to start a new school and make new friends – life could be hard.

To make a long story short, we had to enroll her at Neal Middle.  I remember when I first walked through those front doors; I noticed an informational table for Citizen Schools highlighting their previous year’s work and apprenticeship classes. I was so intrigued, and I immediately needed to know more about this program and how I could get my child involved. One thing is for sure, when we recognize a good thing, we jump on it and take advantage of it.


After one week of enrollment in Citizen Schools, we realized that this has been the best decision we made for her by far. Citizen Schools made her transition easy. It allowed her to have fun while learning. She was able to experience and learn about different cultures and walks of life. She was able to have another outlet that allowed her to be creative and expressive while finding innovative ways to expand her horizons.

This is my child’s second year in the program, and the results have been extraordinary. Since the program I have noticed vast changes in Denaisha’s academic and social life. There has been a boost in her confidence and self-esteem levels. She has developed strong leadership and presentation skills that have also contributed to her learning experience in the classroom and the list goes on.

However, now I realize that Citizen Schools is more than an after-school enrichment program, it’s an extension of our family. Just two weeks ago I lost my wonderful and amazing husband and father to my children due to sudden heart failure. During this time it has been extremely difficult for our family. But, I was determined to be here to show our love and appreciation to our Citizen Schools family because they have been a vital part to our family’s success, and also our healing process. Denaisha yearns for her afternoon time with this program, and I now also realize that Citizen Schools also serves as a safe haven for most of our children, including mine.

I am a proud advocate of Citizen Schools and will continue to support them the best way I know how. As a parent and business owner, I value their continued partnership in help raising our successful students to achieve greatness. They continue to add value not in just my child’s life, but our schools, and more importantly our communities. Thank you for your continued support to keep Citizens Schools alive and growing and contributing to our future leaders of America.




SAS Institute Employee Helps Students Make Real-World Connections

When Bill MacKrell, Sr. Solutions Architect at SAS Institute, arrives at Lowe’s Grove Middle School in Durham, North Carolina he is met with high fives and fist bumps from the students. Bill is not your average teacher. He volunteers as a “Citizen Teacher” with Citizen Schools, coming to Lowe’s Grove once a week to teach students topics they might not otherwise experience in middle school like financial literacy and project management. In their afternoon “apprenticeship” class taught by Bill and other Citizen Teachers, the students learn about careers and build real-world skills they will carry with them in high school, college, beyond. Although he had no prior teaching experience, Bill was excited to get involved in the community. When he heard about the work that Citizen Schools is doing to provide opportunities to low-income students in Durham, he jumped at the chance to sign up.

11403347343_fa20814216_bSince then, Bill has made a lasting impact on the middle schoolers at Lowe’s Grove, and we are proud to feature him as our volunteer Citizen Teacher of the month!

We asked him about his experience teaching with Citizen Schools…

1. What was your “Aha!” moment from the experience?

Last semester when we taught financial literacy, we took the students to a local financial services company. The employees acted as CEOs who needed financial advice, and our student financial advisers interviewed their “clients.” The students were all dressed up and behaved so professionally. They seemed so natural interviewing these executives and transformed into serious young professionals before our eyes.

At the end of the semester, the students gave their final presentation to their parents and teachers. As I watched I saw how the information we taught them had really sunk in. Sometimes I wondered if I was making a difference, but seeing them present made me realize how much they had learned.

2. Why do you think it's important to provide students with real-world, hands-on opportunities?

During the apprenticeship we talked about topics like debt. Even if they only remember part of it, that’s information they will need to use throughout their lives. Through this experience, the students are able to meet people and make connections they normally wouldn’t. They get the chance to learn about careers that they could have one day and see themselves actually having those jobs. The students like making those connections. When we volunteer and show up every week, the students see that there are more grownups who are not going to disappear and whom they can depend on. When they are having a bad day, they get excited to see us and know we’re not going to abandon them. I think those connections are so important.

3. What impact has this experience had on you?

I have loved this experience. It helped me grow both personally and professionally. Volunteering as a Citizen Teacher has helped me become a better communicator. You think you know something until you have to explain it to a middle school student. I’m used to talking to adults, but middle school students speak a different language. I’ve been blessed with so many opportunities in my life and it’s very rewarding to share some of what I’ve learned.

4. What advice would you give future volunteers?

Don’t be afraid to just jump in and do it! It’s such a powerful thing to do, and you get incredible support from the Citizen Schools staff and the other volunteers. At the end of the day you’ll feel like you’ve done something really important.

You can jump in and make a difference like Bill did by signing up to teach an apprenticeship. 

Why I Get Up for Work in the Morning

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


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

1. The Team.

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

Cs Elle Story 2

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


2. The  Students

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

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

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

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

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

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.


NBC Education Nation: "Citizen Schools" showing success

NBC Education Nation October 4, 2013

"Citizen Schools" Showing Success

Citizen Schools was featured on NBC’s national Education Nation series on Friday, October 4th showcasing the work and success of Citizen Schools. The segment includes interviews with Citizen Schools North Carolina Executive Director, Jake House, and Advisory Board Chair and long-time Citizen Teacher, John Gilson. Watch the video.


PRESS RELEASE: Biogen Idec Foundation Awards $250,000 Grant to Citizen Schools to Invest in Science Education in Massachusetts and North Carolina



– Increased Commitment Will Help Citizen Schools Expand its Educational Apprenticeship Program to Reach Approximately 1,950 Middle School Students –

BOSTON, Mass. and RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Sept. 4, 2013 Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit organization that partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for low-income students, today announced a $250,000 grant from the Biogen Idec Foundation to help fund Citizen Schools’ innovative STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) apprenticeship programs in Massachusetts and North Carolina. Biogen Idec Foundation’s commitment of talent and financial support will help Citizen Schools deepen its impact on student learning and engagement at its locations in Boston, Chelsea, Mass., and Durham, N.C. 

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.

“Our apprenticeships bring relevance and a unique hands-on learning opportunity to the school day for students, sparking new potential career interests and increasing their engagement,” said Pat Kirby, Vice President and Executive Director of Citizen Schools Massachusetts. “We are incredibly grateful for the Biogen Idec Foundation’s leadership support. The investment will help Citizen Schools increase the number of students that can access these exciting, real-world STEM opportunities with biologists, computer programmers, financial analysts, and more.”

“One of our goals is to give back to the communities where we work while supporting effective STEM education programs globally.  This program with Citizen Schools provides us with an opportunity to inspire and prepare students for successful STEM careers—aligning with our focus of making science exciting and accessible,” said Tony Kingsley, Chairman, Biogen Idec Foundation.   “There’s simply no better way to engage our next generation of STEM leaders than through hands-on learning experiments that show them what’s possible.”

The Biogen Idec Foundation supports Citizen Schools’ apprenticeships in Massachusetts through a 10-week course at the Biogen Idec Community Lab. The 90-minute per week course has helped Boston students transform into junior scientists. Suited in lab coats, the students conduct experiments using the same state-of-the-art equipment and tools that Biogen Idec scientists utilize to discover and create new medicine. The apprenticeship program is helping to ensure a more diverse 21st century workforce skilled in the STEM job sectors, which are prevalent industries in both Boston and Durham.

The expanded support in North Carolina will be modeled on the success of the program in Boston. This includes a new Biogen Idec Community Lab that will open at Biogen Idec’s Research Triangle Park office, so that students can work side-by-side with Biogen Idec scientists. Biogen Idec employees will begin volunteering at the new Community Lab this fall.

“We are excited to launch our new STEM apprenticeship program with the Biogen Idec Foundation in North Carolina and model the success of the STEM apprenticeships in Massachusetts,” said Jake House, Executive Director of Citizen Schools North Carolina. “This investment will help connect the best volunteers to our students to inspire and engage with them in the essential subjects of science and technology.”

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 The Biogen Idec Foundation, Inc.

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:

About Biogen Idec

Through cutting-edge science and medicine, Biogen Idec discovers, develops and delivers to patients worldwide innovative therapies for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, hemophilia and autoimmune disorders. Founded in 1978, Biogen Idec is the world's oldest independent biotechnology company. Patients worldwide benefit from its leading multiple sclerosis therapies, and the company generates more than $5 billion in annual revenues. For product labeling, press releases and additional information about the company, please visit:


Why I Keep Coming Back for More

Ed Lau is a Technical Account Manager at Microsoft in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is a six-time Citizen Teacher with Citizen Schools. This is adapted from a speech he gave at the Celebrating Community Collaboration benefit event. 

I was actually first roped into volunteering by a co-worker. At first, it seemed like an interesting opportunity to get out, interact with my peers in a non-work setting, and get in some professional development time. Once I taught that first semester, my view on Citizen Schools changed. Little did I when I signed up to co-teach an “apprenticeship” class to middle school students that I would come back to do it again, and again.

ed2Three years later, I have taught six apprenticeships with a group of colleagues, teaching middle school students in Charlotte, North Carolina the ins and outs of computers and how technology impacts their lives. During that first semester, one of the students came up to me and told me that she wanted to come work for Microsoft one day. It gave me a great sense of pride and I decided then that I would keep volunteering with Citizen Schools.

Now, the past few years haven’t been easy. Keeping a room full of middle school students in line takes a lot of work! If anything, I’ve developed a huge appreciation for the teachers that do this role every day.

Last fall, I wasn’t sure if I could keep giving the level of energy necessary for leading an apprenticeship and I considered retiring as a Citizen Teacher. Then, at the end of the semester when the students from all of the apprenticeship classes have a chance to present what they learned during the program, I browsed the other presentations. I stepped into one presentation for the “Brand You” apprenticeship. In this class, each student had to make their own personal brand slides, showing their own interests, career goals, and how they were going to accomplish them. One of the students I taught during the semester was also part of this class and he had put “work for Microsoft” as his goal.

Despite all of the challenges and hardships, I had managed to reach at least one student that semester. That experience once again changed my mind and gave me a reason to keep coming back.

There is always at least one student each semester that will internalize the experience and make important life, education, and career changes based on it. I come back each semester to reach that one student and shape his or her future. For that one student, I will happily volunteer my time

Citizen Schools has made a huge impact on students in Charlotte and across the country. You can get involved in shaping the lives of students by signing up teach an apprenticeship in the fall. But take it from me, you might never want to stop.

Citizen Schools Alumna Makes Her Dreams Come True

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Much More Than a Fundraiser

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

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

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

Event Details:

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

The Boston Marriott Copley Place

Register Here

2. Calling All Citizens, New York, New York

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

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

Event Details:

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

Where: Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center

Register Here

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

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

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

Event Details:

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

Where: Mint Museum Uptown

Event Website

4. BenefitED, Mountain View, California

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

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

Event Details:

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

Where: Computer History Museum

Register here

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

The Land of the Pine: North Carolina Regional Profile

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

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

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

Teaching Fellows at MLK Jr. Middle School

Southern Hospitality

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

Student Speakers at the NASCAR Hall of Fame

A Life Between Weekdays

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

Mountains AND Beach?  Hikers and Swimmers, Rejoice!

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

EMC Apprenticeship at Lowe's Grove Middle School

Notable Partners

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

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

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

Longitudinal Study Shows Promising Results in Charlotte

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

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

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

Mary's High School Graduation

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

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

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

Here’s what we learned.

Engagement and Achievement

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

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

Charlotte Data


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

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

Higher Education

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

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

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

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

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

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