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Citizen Teachers Making an Impact

This is the third post in a series of blog posts featuring Citizen Schools’ program in New Jersey. This installment features a Q&A with two volunteer Citizen Teachers, Scott Bohlen and Michael Manbeck, who share the impact they’re making with students in Fidelity Investments’ Secrets of a Millionaire apprenticeship at Chancellor Avenue Elementary School in Newark, New Jersey. See the first post in the series here and the second post here.  CT-with-Students-300x279Why did you decide to volunteer with Citizen Schools?

Mike: For me, it’s the right thing to do. My upbringing was all about morals, values and doing the right thing by your family and by your friends. This is doing the right thing. As an organization, Fidelity typifies honesty and integrity for doing the right thing for our clients. [Volunteering] is Fidelity doing the right thing for the kids. And honestly, we’ve gotten a lot out of it as well.

Scott: Certainly, Mike covers a lot of the benefits to the community. I think one of the things that I found interesting was the whole idea of providing students with opportunities to understand different careers, the different things that they could do with their lives, and how that ties back to what they’re learning in school. Personally, that was a big tie in–to be able to provide that spark to get kids actually interested in what they’re learning during the day and making that tie to the real world.

Scott, do you have any success stories being that this is your third apprenticeship with us?

Scott: There are always success stories. We’re focused on presentation skills as one of the 21st century skills in this apprenticeship. We’ve been able to develop a great environment with the students where they feel willing to take chances. We have a lot of volunteer opportunities [for the students] to come up to the front of the classroom and share their ideas. I was actually pleasantly surprised a couple of weeks ago when one of the team leaders from Citizen Schools whispered to me that she was so impressed that one of my students presented in front of the class because it wasn’t anything she’s ever seen her do during the regular school day.* For me, that was a great success story. But there are a number of stories like that from my other apprenticeships where we’re making a positive impact.

Mike: I completely agree with Scott. Given that this is my first year doing Citizen Schools, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I would advocate that this is the right thing for everyone in corporate America to do-spend their time, come in, and try to help the kids. There are basic foundational principles that will go a long way for the children.

In Secrets of a Millionaire, have you noticed any impacts with the students?

Mike: Scott nailed it. It is about taking kids out of their comfort zone. This evening, I noticed that one reserved student, who was scared to present, got up in front of more than 20 people during the site visit. I went over and gave her a big pat on the back. She said, “Wow! I did it.” I replied, “Since you did it once, you can do it a second time, third, fourth, etc.; keep increasing the size of the audience and even the topics can get more complicated.” You could see the proverbial light bulb going off in her head at that moment. She had a great sense of accomplishment and in turn, so did I.

How is your apprenticeship preparing students for the future workforce?

Scott: Our apprenticeship is focused on financial literacy, so obviously that is a big target for us. Our firm’s primary goal is to help people live the lives they want and one way we can start to do that is by building financial literacy with students. But it is also things around [financial literacy] that are just as important like problem-solving skills and presentation and communication skills. These are skills that students are actually going to use throughout the course of their careers.

CT SpeakingWhat has been your favorite moment thus far?

Mike: Getting the kids up and presenting what they are learning, and the children seeing themselves accomplish the things they didn’t know they could do–except for me. I see them getting to a different playing field, essentially going from the minor leagues to the majors. These are skills that they will carry on for years to come.

Scott: My favorite moment was actually tonight. We had 7 volunteers present to a room full of people on a topic that they had 15 minutes to think about. The fact that they had enough confidence in their presentation skills, which we’ve been working on throughout the course of the apprenticeship, impressed me. In moments like that, I can see that we’re really making a difference.

*Citizen Schools campus staff works with the school’s staff during the morning’s “first shift”.

Manbeck and Bohlen

Fidelity Investments is a proud national partner of Citizen Schools. Thank you Scott and Mike for your leadership!

For more information about being a Citizen Teacher in New Jersey, please contact Ashley Drew, Civic Engagement and Operations Associate, at ashleydrew@citizenschools.org.