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.

A Celebration of Youth, Community & Culture

A Celebration of Youth, Community & Culture

A celebration, of youth, community, and culture, brought together educators and volunteers on Thursday, May 23, to applaud students who had completed 10-week apprenticeships, all thanks to Citizen Schools, a non-profit that partners with middle schools across the United States to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities.

Celebrating Students: WOW! Showcase Events

Celebrating Students: WOW! Showcase Events

Each year, we excitedly look forward to WOW! student showcases, which celebrate the culmination of our students’ hard work throughout their apprenticeships. At these events, students get to show off all that they have accomplished and families, friends, and volunteers get to enjoy interactive presentations and other festive activities. Every campus in New York had a chance to shine with their very own campus celebration--complete with a pun-inspired theme.

Spring WOW! Season Highlights

Spring WOW! Season Highlights

This spring, we were proud to host another successful WOW! season in California. From yoga and tai chi to backpacking, web design and more, our students had no shortage of amazing apprenticeships to chose from this semester. We're so proud of all that our students have learned - and so thankful to all our amazing volunteer Citizen Teachers!

December 2017 WOW! Week Recap

December 2017 WOW! Week Recap

Here at Citizen Schools New York, December is when our students get to showcase what they have learned in their 10-week apprenticeships, while their volunteer Citizen Teachers get to say WOW! At our semi-annual Google MegaWOW!, 75 students across our four schools were able to showcase their final products to more than 20 Citizen Teachers, 30 staff members, 25 guest and other special guests.

PRESS RELEASE: Hikvision and Citizen Schools Provide STEM Education to Students in Need

Hikvision and Citizen Schools Provide STEM Education to Students in Need

City of Industry, CA – May 26, 2015 – HikvisionÒ USA, North America’s leading provider of innovative, award-winning video surveillance products and solutions, has teamed up with Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit organization that partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities.

Hikvision volunteers provided hands-on classroom opportunities for middle school students at Chase Elementary in Chicago, where the students learned about engineering design and built alternative energy vehicles. The ten-week semester culminated in a “WOW! Event” this month where students taught back what they learned to teachers, parents, and community members. As a technology leader, Hikvision is dedicated to supporting opportunities for STEM-based education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) across North America.

Citizen Schools, which is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year, has a rich history of enabling public middle schools in low-income communities to provide a longer learning day with enrichment opportunities for students. Volunteers called “Citizen Teachers” visit the classroom in the extended day each week to engage the students in activities they would not otherwise be able to participate in during the school day. Students gain knowledge in topics ranging from journalism to astronomy, leading toward what Citizen Schools CEO Steven Rothstein refers to as a “moment of discovery.”

“Igniting a moment of discovery means that the students feel empowered,” Mr. Rothstein said. “They build something: the rocket flies, they’ve cooked something for the first time, their financial plan shows how they could potentially afford to go to college. These opportunities are crucial for students in many urban areas around the country. By the time they have reached 6th grade, they typically receive 6000 fewer hours of academic and personal enrichment opportunities than students in higher-income communities.”

Citizen Teachers from Hikvision taught an engineering design course at Chase Elementary where the students built structures and vehicles, tested their load-bearing capacity, and then transferred that knowledge into an understanding of how alternative energy vehicles operate and how they will affect our society in the future.

“Coming into the classroom every week and seeing how excited the students got about what they were learning was an incredible experience,” remarked Ahmed Elsayed, a sales engineer for Hikvision USA who volunteered at Chase. “Their desire for knowledge was palpable and I’m proud to be part of a program that fostered that.”

In addition to volunteer hours spent in the classroom, Hikvision also made a financial donation to provide classroom supplies.

“As a forward-thinking technology leader, Hikvision understands that the next generation of scientists and engineers are sitting in our middle school classrooms today,” stated Jeffrey He, president of Hikvision USA and Hikvision Canada. “Educating these students so they can realize their full potential will lead to a more robust workforce and a broader landscape for the STEM-based industries of the future. Hikvision is honored to play a part in facilitating this fundamental conveyance of knowledge.”

To learn more about Citizen Schools, visit

For more information about Hikvision, visit booth 822 at the Electronic Security Expo (ESX), June 24-28, at the Baltimore Convention Center, or go to

About Hikvision

Hikvision is the world’s largest supplier of video surveillance products and solutions. The company specializes in innovative video surveillance technology, as well as designing and manufacturing a full line of innovative CCTV and video surveillance products. Hikvision possesses the industry’s largest R&D team and state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities; both allow Hikvision’s customers the benefit of world-class products that are designed with cutting-edge technology. Hikvision USA is a subsidiary of Hikvision Digital Technology Co., Ltd.

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.


Media contact:

Alex Asnovich, Director of Marketing, Hikvision USA


From 6th Graders to CEOs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Student Ideas Take Shape in 3D Printing Apprenticeship

When he was attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chris Haid and his friends spent what little spare time they had tinkering and building what would become the world’s first fully automated 3D printer. Years later, he is bringing this technology into middle school classrooms in Boston through a 3D printing apprenticeship with the company he co-founded, NVBOTS. 13928389447_9e35dfedab_z

Chris is the Chief Operating Officer of NVBOTs, handling daily operations, customer service, and ensuring manufacturing meets demand. He has broken his routine once a week for four semesters to volunteer as a Citizen Teacher. His goal is to teach middle school students how to design and build with a 3D printer.

Chris is helping to extend NVBOTS' impact with the installation of an NVPro 3D printer at McCormack Middle School in Dorchester, Massachusetts. The printer is stimulating creativity and providing hands-on learning for many students. It is “one of many” that will be installed in Boston middle schools through the company’s partnership with Citizen Schools.

We recognize Chris as the March Citizen Teacher of the Month for his dedication to teaching students and increasing student access to the state-of-the-art 3D printers!

Meet Chris…

What apprenticeships have you taught?

I teach an Introduction to 3D Printing Apprenticeship. We teach the students how to go through the design process. We help them decide what they want to create and sketch out what they want to design and print. Once we get them through the design process, we teach them how to 3D print the parts. They get to take it home the following week.

This is my fourth time around. We’ve done two classes per semester a couple times around.

Do you have a favorite WOW! moment? Did anything surprise you about the students?

I get to see them go home and come back the next week only to tell me that they got so interested in this 3D printing design that they went home and looked up new part designs. They’re coming up with new ideas on their own. That’s one of the biggest things for me.

Chris Haid keeps souvenirs of his apprenticeships on his desk.

Some students don’t see the path to get to higher education. That’s how a lot of students start off in the beginning of the class. They say “before I was uncertain about 3D printing and how to design everything.” And now they want to go to college for 3D printing.

That’s really heartwarming. Just seeing the kids get excited about engineering. They’re not constrained in life and they have every ability to create things and bring their own ideas to life. Our apprenticeship shows them they can do that and it’s not that hard. There’s failing but at the end of the day it’s about taking something in your mind and making it into reality.

Why do you think students should engage in hands-on learning?

I think all students have an idea of something they want to create, but they’re often constrained. They don’t have all of the necessary tools at their disposal, but once they see that they have the ability to make something,knowing that they can create those designs gives them confidence.

A student of Chris Haid's shows off 3D printed objects as he explains how they are made.

What advice do you have for new Citizen Teachers?

Get to know your students. Teach something you’re passionate about. Try to build a personal connection with the students and get to know them while still maintaining your role as teacher. That really help to keep the  students engaged.

Why should people volunteer to teach students?

I believe it’s the most important thing to do. The students will be living in the future we’re building and it’s important to arm them with the tools and abilities they need to make a difference.

One day I brought in a prosthetic hand and said, “I designed it but it could be better. This is an application of the tools I’m teaching you right now. That’s why we’re doing this, so we can help each other and make the world a better place.”

Learn more about volunteering with Citizen Schools here!

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citizen Schools to be Featured on American Graduate Day 2014!

Live from Tisch WNET Studios at Lincoln Center in NYC, airing September 27 at 3PM EST

Day-long Multiplatform Event Celebrates the “Stories of Champions” -- Individuals and Organizations Committed to Improving Outcomes for Youth and Raising Graduation Rates   

National Broadcast to Showcase Citizen School’ Efforts to Address the Needs of At-Risk Kids

This video will appear during Citizen Schools’ segment on American Graduate Day.

American Graduate Day 2014 returns this fall for its third consecutive year. Wes Moore, best-selling author and U.S. Army veteran, will host the all-day broadcast on September 27 which will feature Citizen Schools at 3pm on public television stations nationwide. The annual multiplatform event is part of the public media initiative, American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, helping communities bolster graduation rates through the power and reach of local public media stations. Featuring seven hours of national and local programming, live interviews and performances, American Graduate Day 2014 will celebrate the exceptional work of individuals and organizations across the country who are American Graduate Champions: those helping local youth stay on track to college and career successes.

“Every child deserves a quality education and an opportunity for success,” said Pat Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). “The high school graduation numbers are moving in the right direction because people have stepped up as champions for students on behalf of their communities, committed to improving outcomes for all of our nation’s youth. On American Graduate Day, local public media stations will be celebrating the inspirational stories that are contributing to the progress.”

“We are proud to be included in American Graduate Day as an organization that is lifting opportunities for middle school youth in low-income communities," said Steven Rothstein, CEO of Citizen Schools. “Individuals and organizations have a vital role to play in ensuring that students are prepared and supported on the path to graduation and future success."

During Citizen Schools’ segment, NBC News education correspondent, Rehema Ellis, will interview a Citizen Schools 8th grade student, volunteer, and program leader about the STEM (science, engineering, technology, and math) education focus of Citizen Schools’ program at partner school Eagle Academy for Young Men of Newark. Eighth grader, Jacor will demonstrate the fun and hands-on way he learned about math and science through building a model solar and racing it at competition. The volunteer who teaches Solar Cars, Piyush Modak from Endomedix, will share the joy and professional growth she has experienced through teaching and learning from the students each week, and seeing the impact that her passion for STEM can have on kids. They will be joined by Citizen Schools Deputy Campus Director, Chanelle Baylor, to discuss the partnership between Citizen Schools and Eagle Academy that furthers student learning, while supporting teachers, and providing hands-on project-based learning. Projects like what Jacor did with solar cars allows students to transform into young scientists, engineers, astronauts, business owners, and programmers, helping them see the connections between their academics, real-world careers, and how they can achieve their dreams for their future.

This year’s American Graduate Day topics will include Early Education, Caring Consistent Adults, More and Better Learning, Special Needs Communities, STEAM (A for arts) Programs, Dropout Prevention and Re-Engagement and College and Career Readiness. Citizen Schools will be featured during the STEAM segment of the broadcast. The program will also devote time to areas not covered before, including the special needs community and the work of such organizations as Autism Speaks, Best Buddies, and Special Olympics, and the importance of the arts in STEAM as a key component to More and Better Learning that can compel kids to stay in school, reflected in programs like Exploring the Arts and VH1 Save The Music Foundation, and more. In addition to “Stories of Champions,” other new features include live performances by The Raise Up Project, a spoken word group also being honored the following day at The Kennedy Center, and the Trenton Public Schools Marching Band.

Viewers and online users who are interested in connecting with local organizations and youth as American Graduate Champions can send a text on the day of broadcast or log on to to find out more about the national and regional organizations and how to help in their communities. Viewers will also be invited to participate in the discussion via Twitter and Facebook using the #AmGrad hashtag and on.


Wes Moore (PBS and OWN), Juju Chang (ABC), Rehema Ellis (NBC), Bianna Golodryga (Yahoo!), Lyn May (PBS), Stone Phillips (news anchor), Hari Sreenivasan (PBS NewsHour Weekend), Rebecca Jarvis (ABC News), Susie Gharib (Nightly Business Report), William Brangham (PBS NewsHour Weekend) and Lauren Wanko (NJTV).


Among the national organizations featured are: 4-H, 100K in 10, America SCORES Cleveland, America’s Promise Alliance, AmeriCorps, Autism Speaks, Banister Leadership Academy, Best Buddies, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Citizen Schools, City Year, Communities In Schools, Exploring the Arts, FIRST, Gateway to College National Network, GEAR UP, GRAD Cincinnati, Horizons National, Jobs for America’s Graduates, Junior Achievement, My Brother’s Keeper, National Academy Foundation, Omaha Empowerment Network, Project SEARCH, Publicolor, The Raise Up Project, Reach Out and Read, Reading is Fundamental, Roadtrip Nation, Special Olympics, Samsung Electronics North America, Taco Bell Foundation for Teens™, United Way and VH1 Save The Music Foundation.


Tony Bennett and wife Susan Benedetto will be interviewed about Exploring the Arts; Gen. Colin Powell and Alma Powell will be interviewed about their organization, America’s Promise Alliance; Brian Williams (NBC) and Jane Williams, daughter actress Allison Williams (HBO’s Girls) and son Doug Williams (YES Network) will be interviewed about their organization, Horizons National; Michael Bloomberg (former Mayor of New York City) will appear on behalf of Publicolor; Reggie Bush (Detroit Lions) will appear on behalf of Taco Bell Foundation; Ingrid Michaelson (singer/songwriter) will give a testimonial about VH1 Save The Music Foundation; CC Sabathia (New York Yankees) and Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Olympic gold medalist) will appear on behalf of Boys and Girls Clubs of America; Miral Kotb (dancer/choreographer) will be interviewed about Girls Who Code; Andy Grammer (singer) will host the VH1 Save The Music Foundation segment.

American Graduate Day 2014 is a production of THIRTEEN Productions LLC in association with WNET. Michael Kostel is executive producer.  Colin Powers is broadcast producer.  Chris Brande is national segment producer. Helen Maier is co-producer. Anna Campbell is local segment producer. From the Education Department, Kimberly Mullaney is project manager and Carole Wacey is vice president, education. Neal Shapiro is executive-in-charge.

American Graduate Day is part of American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen - a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help more kids stay on the path to graduation.

Visit the American Graduate Web site for more details on participating PBS stations as well as other television and radio programs:

About Citizen Schools

Citizen Schools is a national nonprofit organization that partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities. Citizen Schools mobilizes a team of 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 American Graduate

American Graduate: Let's Make it Happen was launched in 2011 with 25 public media stations in high need communities to spotlight the high school dropout crisis and focus on middle and high school student interventions. Today, more than 80 public radio and television stations in over 30 states have partnered with over 1000 community organizations and schools, as well as Alma and Colin Powell's America's Promise Alliance, Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, Alliance for Excellent Education, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation to help the nation achieve a 90% graduation by 2020. With primetime and children’s programming that educates, informs, and inspires public radio and television stations — locally owned and operated — are important resources in helping to address critical issues facing today’s communities. According to a report from the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, American Graduate stations have told the story about the dropout crisis in a way that empowered citizens to get involved, and helped community organizations break down silos to work more effectively together. In early 2014, CPB and PBS KIDS committed an additional $20 million for the “American Graduate PBS KIDS Fund” to also help communities connect the importance of early learning as part of a student’s long term success. In addition to station grants for local engagement, the Fund will support the creation of children’s content and tools to help parents, particularly those from low income communities, better prepare their young children for long term success. Fourteen American Graduate station grantees have also been awarded CPB early education grants to reach children ages 2-8 with programming and services developed through the Ready to Learn Initiative, a project funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

About CPB

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government's investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,300 locally-owned and -operated public television and radio stations nationwide, and is the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television and related online services.

“Example isn't another way to teach, it is the only way to teach”

From “Amazing Mazes” to “Life on Mars,” Citizen Teacher Haggai Mark has developed and taught a variety of computer science apprenticeships for over four years. His experience with Citizen Schools impacted his decision to transition from 30 years as an engineer to a full time Computer Science Curriculum Developer and teacher in California! Name: Haggai Mark

Title:  High School Computer Science Curriculum Developer and Teacher

What was the most recent apprenticeship you taught? A STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and programming apprenticeship I developed, called “Meet Me on Mars”. Students learned how to write a game/program using Scratch (developed at MIT) to simulate a simplified solar system, and a launch of a rocket from Earth to Mars.

How did you hear about Citizen Schools? Through work (I worked at Cisco Systems in San Jose, CA. Cisco is a National Leadership Partner of Citizen Schools).

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

We as human beings learn a lot by doing, regardless of age. Exposing students to new areas of knowledge and new experiences is like opening windows for them, and letting the light shine in. Giving them hands-on opportunities and examples for doing things with this knowledge is like giving them the wings to fly through these windows.

As Albert Einstein said: “Example isn't another way to teach, it is the only way to teach." I think that Citizen Schools enables and supports this kind of mindset.

What surprised you most about the students and teaching experience?

An important insight I got after teaching different courses and multiple classes is that you never know exactly which “seeds” are going to fall on fertile ground and grow. In other words, in the complex interaction between your personality as a teacher, the material you are trying to teach, the ways you are teaching it, the students you are interacting with, the knowledge and interests they have, and their personality, it’s very hard to predict which “nuggets” of knowledge and skills are really going to take hold, and make an impact on them. And that’s why it’s important to try different ways and different things, and most importantly – persevere. Sometimes you think you are not reaching them and then they totally blow you away with their actions and insights!

What was the greatest "aha" or "WOW" moment during your time with Citizen Schools?

A couple of years ago I was teaching a STEM course called “Amazing Mazes”, which I had developed. The Amazing Mazes course teaches students to use computers to build mazes in a 2D plane (on the computer screen), create "maze walkers" (think, "mice"), and then teach them, using programming, to successfully navigate through these mazes (or "find the cheese", so to speak).

As the students build their maze, they can see both a “graphic representation” of the paths of the maze, and a “programmatic representation” of the maze, which is the collection of commands they are using. These are two very different representations and abstraction levels. And one question is: which of these forms is “really” the maze? It is hard to fully grasp these concepts in middle school.

As it turns out, one 7th grade girl in class got it! She took the list of commands (which is one form of abstraction) she used for building her maze, added new numbers to all her x-y coordinates within those commands, and re-ran her program to generate a new/shifted maze (a different form of abstraction)!

I’m not sure who was more pleased with the resulting new shape on the screen, I, because I was able to teach, or she, because she was able to learn! I guess we were both blown away.

What skills did you gain or develop by teaching the students?

I definitely learned how to plan for different levels and paces of student learning, in order to create differentiated learning. I also learned how to more effectively use educational tools and technologies to enhance interest and learning.

You’ve made a big transition in your career - from the corporate space into the public school system.  How did your work with Citizen Schools impact that transition?

Due to my unique experience in education, I was able to work with Citizen Schools to have enough flexibility to create STEM apprenticeships and teach them, with freedom to choose topics, educational technologies, and teaching techniques.It really allowed me to explore and validate my interests and capabilities, before making a career change. Education and teaching have been on my mind for many years, but as they say "life  happens when you make other plans" and I ended up doing Engineering for 30 years. When I had the opportunity to make a career change it was very natural for me to choose education.

What are you most excited about in your new role?

I love the fact that I will be doing both curriculum development, starting with designing three new Computer Science courses, and teaching them! I am excited about the opportunity to design curricula from scratch and validate their effectiveness through doing hands-on evaluation.

What advice would you give future volunteers?

Picking an area you are both knowledgeable and passionate about is key! Your interest and sense of excitement is “contagious” – it shows immediately, and usually “rubs off” onto the students. It is important to plan for your lessons, but you also need to be flexible, and be willing to seize learning moments, if and when they come, and they will come. The more connections you are able to make with and for the students between what you are teaching and what interests them (and what comes up spontaneously during the lessons), the better.

Learn more about volunteering with Citizen Schools here!

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.



Kids Say the Best Things When Given the Opportunity

AWA13.2Have you ever heard a 12-year-old explain the scientific method, or tell you how much money you should be saving for retirement, or how the Pythagorean theorem is used to make video games? Well, we have. In fact, we hear those moments of brilliance all the time at Citizen Schools, after middle school students have had the chance to work with professionals on ten-week long projects, or “apprenticeships.” At the end of each semester, these students will amaze you with everything they've learned. Check out a few of our favorite moments from last fall. Don’t be surprised if they make you want to sign up to volunteer as a Citizen Teacher. It’s ok, it happens all the time...

8717777741_5b5777d9fd_c1. Advice to the CEO

In New York City, a group of students spent ten afternoons with volunteers from Chobani, learning how to package and market new ideas for Greek yogurt. At the end of the project, the students had the chance to present their ideas at Chobani to the CEO and other executives. With the utmost confidence, a student walked right up to the CEO and said, “We think there are some serious problems with the packaging of this product, and we have some ideas to make it better." How many adults do you know who could do that? After making a compelling argument, the CEO had to agree and said he might even produce one of the yogurt flavors that the kids pitched. Pretty impressive.

11223348324_8e792dc81f_z2. Building a City

The students of the "We Built this City" apprenticeship class in Newark, New Jersey drafted a petition to fix up a vacant lot near their school to reduce crime and help build up their community. One student, a young lady, learned that police officers play a significant role in helping keep communities safe, and discovered it was the perfect career path for her. When she was later asked what she liked to do for fun, she responded, “Well, if I played with dolls, I would want a cop doll. Cops help Newark be a better place. Plus, no glitter. It just gets everywhere.” Can’t argue with that.

3. Creating Change that Matters

The students in the “Creating Change that Matters” at Cesar Chavez Academy in East Palo Alto, learned how to use the design thinking process to solve a problem in their community. The students presented prototypes that they created from scratch, including a shorter basketball hoop so that kids of all ages could make a basket, and a schedule that allocates sports equipment for a more diplomatic recess time. At the presentation, the students outlined the steps they used, and the rationale behind why they chose to make the products they did.

NJ WOW! no cogOne student said, “I really enjoyed the hands-on designing experience. I learned how to create something out of nothing, something that could help the community. Creating things for my community helped me realize it’s not about you, it has to be for others.” Beyond learning engineering, teamwork skills, and how to develop new products, she also discovered a new-found sense of her role in the community, at the ripe old age of 12.

These are just a few of the many moments that keep our volunteers coming back semester after semester to work with middle school students across the country. Sign up to volunteer this semester and see (and hear) for yourself, that all students are truly capable of incredible things. They just need the opportunity.

How Volunteering Can Change the Lives of Students in Chicago

Ryan Forst  is a student at DePaul University with a Masters in Public Administration and currently pursuing a Certificate in Community Development. He learned about the Citizen Schools program through DePaul’s Chaddick Institute and loved the idea of educating students in Chicago public schools about urban planning.

Watching the community where you grew up evolve with time is an opportunity that is truly precious and I am proud to say that I have been part of a positive change. When one of my high school teachers introduced me to the world of urban planning through community development, I knew I had found my calling. I didn’t know that in the future, I too would be be sharing my passion for urban planning with active, young minds. When I heard about the nonprofit organization Citizen Schools, which is dedicated to providing real-world experiences and connections to middle school students in low-income areas, I immediately signed up to be volunteer “Citizen Teacher” with hopes to inspire kids in Chicago to pursue urban planning too.5258801462_516e4df027

Some neighborhoods in Chicago aren’t safe for students after school and sometimes they have to walk home across gang lines in the dark. The opportunity to work with students in my own city, and expose them to new ideas they might not otherwise get to experience in a safe environment was immediately attractive to me.

My colleagues and I called the “apprenticeship” class “Build Your Pilsen,” focusing on restructuring two vacant sites in the Pilsen neighborhood of southwest Chicago. We wanted the students to work on a project that could impact their own community. The goal was that by the end of the 10- week course, the students would be able to bring their dream to life in two models, which they would present to their families and school teachers at the end-of-semester event which is called a WOW!

Throughout the ten weeks, we struggled with the question of whether or not the students were actually understanding and retaining the concepts. Holding a middle schooler’s attention requires a lot of advance preparation and sometimes we doubted if we were actually making an impact. But in the end, our doubts were gone as soon as they began their presentation.

On the day of the WOW!  I was bowled over by the students’ knowledge of the subject matter. They answered the guests’ challenging questions using the concepts and terminology that we discussed in class. They became urban planning experts before my eyes.

5258811332_a97951670eEventually, a parent of one of our students walked in. His son enthusiastically started explaining the idea behind his model and answered all of his questions. I was taken aback by this student’s presentation as he was not usually attentive in class. The father then came up to each person in our six member team and thanked us personally for keeping his son engaged. He told us that though his son may have seemed like he didn’t pay attention, he would actually talk nonstop at home about the apprenticeship and everything he learned. He thanked us for truly inspiring his son.

It meant so much to me that I felt on top of the world for the rest of the WOW! It made the time we put into lesson plans, commuting, etc. totally worth it. To receive such an acknowledgement from a parent made us realize the difference we were making by connecting these children’s education to possible career paths in the future.

I hope that in the future, the students understand the importance of their role in their community and realize that as residents they have a say in how they can better their society and environment. I hope they advocate for and become actively involved with their current and future community, be it by volunteering or even running for political office. These kids have incredible potential and I am thankful for the chance to work with them.

To inspire young people in your community, sign up to teach an apprenticeship and be part of the change.

Newark Community Celebrates Student Success

If you've ever been to Newark, New Jersey you will notice one thing very quickly-- this community cares about each other. Over the past four months, 400 middle school students have gotten the chance to experience the impact of a community that cares about their success. Thanks to volunteer "Citizen Teachers" from community organizations and corporations, these students have transformed into solar engineers, esteemed bloggers, and masters in martial arts through the Citizen Schools apprenticeship program. With guidance from these experts who come from all walks of life, they've gained real-world knowledge and built skills necessary to succeed in a 21st century workplace. On June 15, 2013 the young men of  Eagle Academy showed off what they learned during their apprenticeship classes at a community-wide celebration. These students took guests down their path to discovery as they presented their final products and presentations. Here is a peek at a few of the featured apprenticeships...

6 degrees photo1. Six Degrees with Prudential Black Leadership Forum

Networking can lead to big opportunities--even for 6th graders! Every week a group of students headed down to the Prudential building to meet with volunteers from the Black Leadership Forum, which is a business resource group within the company dedicated to professional development of its black employees.  The volunteers made deep personal connections with the students, showing them how to present themselves professionally and confidently. After ten weeks, these students have big dreams and they are "six degrees" closer to achieving them.

Jared Noll, Citizen Schools Teaching Fellow said, "Our students have really grown over the last ten weeks in our Six Degrees apprenticeship. Many of them have already established career goals and began making connections with professionals to further those goals. I look forward to partnering up with Prudential again next year and seeing how much further we can push our students! Good job, Eagles!"

Larry w- Astronaut Charlie Camarda2. Solar Cars with Endomedix

Piyush Modak, a Laboratory Engineer at the medical technology company Endomedix, made science come to life for students as they learned how to build real solar cars. The students had the unique opportunity to present their cars at the New York Academy of Sciences to a room full of scientists, engineers and even NASA Astronaut Charlie Camarda, who has been into outer space and back. They even had a special visit from the CEO of the company who shared brand new technologies that are being used in operating rooms to help save lives.

Piyush said, "It was an amazing opportunity. To be able to share my passion for science and engineering and critical thinking with the kids was an unparalleled experience. Some days I struggled and on some I triumphed, but seeing the kids apply their minds to create "something out of nothing" was truly rewarding. I made them think."

Martial Arts - Eagle3. H.E.A.R.T Martial Arts with Sensei Jim 

Sensei Jim has been a member of the Citizen Schools family since 2009, bringing his love of martial arts to students in Newark. Over the past several years he has taught 20 apprenticeships! Twice a week, students not only learn the discipline of martial arts, but also learn the value of giving back to the community by writing letters to the elderly in nursing homes, cleaning the local Jesse Allen Park, and making pet toys for a local animal shelter.

Sensei Jim said, "A friend was speaking to a colleague about me and the H.E.A.R.T. Martial Arts program and how I teach the students for free. His colleague's response was, 'Your friend is a rich man!' His colleague is right, I have many golden moments over the years where the students have made me so proud. The joy of teaching and the experiences that Citizen Schools has afforded me cannot be measured in a monetary sense."

The students of these three apprenticeship classes and more truly WOWed the crowd as guests witnessed the magic of bringing schools and communities together to impact the lives of students.


Top WOW! Moments of Spring 2013

Spring is a special time at Citizen Schools as we witness middle school students transform into impressive computer scientists, mechanical engineers, social entrepreneurs and more.  Hundreds of people have joined us this month to celebrate these WOW! moments—when students have the chance to show off their newly developed skills and passion for learning. From coast to coast, our students have been inspiring rooms full of professionals, family members and teachers, as they present their hard work from the past ten weeks. Here are some of our favorite WOW! moments from this spring... 1. New York Facebook WOW! Students in the Video Game Design apprenticeship taught by volunteers from Facebook learned the computer science behind their favorite video games. At the WOW! event they stumped professional engineers and programmers with their challenging and fun self-made video games.







2. Illinois Groupon WOW! Students in the Math Allstars apprenticeship transformed into entrepreneurs as they presented the amusement parks they designed to scale.

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3. California Tech Challenge WOW! Students participated in the Tech Challenge competition where they were tasked with a mission to launch an egg onto an asteroid. The students then presented their design thinking process at the STEM WOW! event hosted by EMC.

Photo by Alison Taggart Barone







4. North Carolina Lowe's Grove Middle School WOW! Students in the EMC Electrical Engineering apprenticeship taught guests about the environmental consequences of electronic waste and methods for electronic waste recycling.

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5. Texas  NASA WOW! Students in the Mars Exploration apprenticeship at Patrick Henry Middle School in Houston saw a real Mars colony mock-up after presenting their Martian colonies to space architects and engineers at NASA.










6. New Mexico Van Buren Middle School WOW! Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, attended the WOW! at Van Buren Middle School in Albuquerque, New Mexico to support the students.

NM congress







7. Massachusetts STEM WOW! Students from the TechnoSWAG apprenticeship led by Mark Greenlaw from Cognizant presented the LED light-up banners that they designed, programmed and built using a microcontroller. They truly impressed the crowd with their knowledge of circuits and programming.

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8. New Jersey GlassRoots WOW!  Thanks to the nonprofit organization, GlassRoots, the students in this apprenticeship learned the art of glass-making. They created a beautiful mosaic reflecting their school community. There's still a chance to witness a WOW! moment like this in Newark, New Jersey at the upcoming Eagle Academy WOW! on June 15. Click here to register!

GlassRoots pic w_ students







Help us create more of these WOW moments next year by signing up to teach an apprenticeship in the fall. 

California STEM WOW! Event Sure to Inspire

Business executives, computer programmers, engineers and key leaders in technology are gathering at the offices of EMC Corporation for an exciting event-- a presentation of incredible innovation and scientific breakthroughs...led by middle school students.

Citizen Schools California is hosting the STEM WOW! event at the office of EMC Corporation in Santa Clara, California on Tuesday, May 21. Guests will enjoy an inspiring evening of presentations from some of the best and brightest students in California.

Here's a sneak peek at what the students will be presenting...

1. Tech Challenge Tech Challenge is our spotlight apprenticeship at the STEM WOW! event. In partnership with EMCRAFT and the San Jose Tech Museum, this apprenticeship was taught at four schools this semester. Students experienced a real "WOW moment" on the day of the Tech Challenge competition when they were tasked with a mission to launch an egg onto an asteroid. The team displayed exceptional knowledge of design thinking and beamed with pride when they received their Tech Challenge participation medals.  Find out more about the Tech Challenge apprenticeship here. 

Photo by Alison Taggart Barone

2. Amazing Mazes Students learn how to build complex mazes, explore how they are  programmed, and come up with different ways to solve them. One volunteer said, "In one lesson I was trying to teach an important but abstract math and programming concept. As it turns out, one 7th grade girl in class really got it. I’m not sure who was more pleased, me, because I was able to teach, or she, because she was able to learn!"

3. What is a Computer, Really? Students learn the ins and outs of a computer and how technology impacts their lives. Citizen Teacher from Cognizant said, "Nothing like teaching kids! It is 'Give and Take', you teach and you learn with them. Thanks to Citizen Schools and Campbell for giving this opportunity and experience to us."

Cisco Apprenticeship Students

4. Women in Business  The Women's Leadership Pillar at Cisco is inspiring girls to pursue careers in science, technology, marketing and more! When asked what she wants to do when she's older, one student responded, "I want to work for Cisco!" Check out this blog post to learn more about the Women in Business apprenticeship.

5. Adventures in the Atmosphere In this apprenticeship students are learning about the different facets of the atmosphere, including pressure, sound and space. The students are so engaged that they often ask for the websites used in class so they can explore them on their own at home. An 8th grade science teacher at Campbell Middle School came to visit the apprenticeship and left saying how impressed she was with their engagement.

6. There's an App for That Students are learning how to design their own mobile phone applications. One student even surprised everyone by using a YouTube tutorial to create an App that solves equations using the quadratic formula! robotics3

7. Robotics Standford University engineering students are teaching kids to build and program their own robots. One shy student broke out of her shell in this apprenticeship class, taking on a leadership role in the class.

8. Bootstrap Led by volunteers from Google, students are learning how to create their own video games using the Bootstrap programming code.

9. Ice Cream, You Scream Everybody loves ice cream and these kids are applying the Scientific Method to create their own ice cream flavors. They are applying food science in in real world scenario by learning how to market their ice cream brand.

Don't miss the opportunity to enjoy an evening of networking with some of the biggest companies in technology, as well as the next generation of scientists, engineers and technology experts. Register today!