Belief is the foundation of our model at Citizen Schools—when kids believe, they become. We help young people envision what is possible and set them on a path to achieve it through our unique blend of academic support and inspirational apprenticeships. Our goal is to close the opportunity gap that exists for many students in low-income communities. By the time their more affluent peers reach high school, they have received 6,000 hours more education and enrichment through afterschool and summer activities like piano lessons, science camp, mentor relationships, and various extra-curricular opportunities. We close this gap, and the achievement gap it fuels, by expanding the middle school day and filling it with rigor, relevance and relationships that engage and excite students. And our work is making a difference—improving middle school grades and state assessment proficiency, high school graduation rates and college matriculation rates.
I’m the daughter of educators and reveled in a world full of strong mentors and enrichment opportunities. It’s a foundation I’ve worked hard to provide for my four children and one we aspire to give the thousands of children around the nation who participate in Citizen Schools programs. As Citizen Schools’ new CEO, and a devoted employee for 13 years, I feel fortunate to spearhead this amazing mission and to collaborate with the many incredible people who contribute time, energy and resources to supporting America’s youth.
For me, every day at Citizen Schools is an adventure, filled with inspiring people. In any given week, I might visit a classroom in one of the six regions where we work, meet with volunteer Citizen Teachers or school leaders, engage with donors or listen to a child’s story of their apprenticeship. I might have the good fortune to attend a meeting at the White House, visit with local community leaders or problem solve with our corporate headquarters staff in Boston. By writing this blog, I hope to give you a firsthand glimpse into what happens behind the scenes every day at Citizen Schools so you can see how important this work is and consider lending your support or volunteering with us.
Recently, I visited a Harvard Business School (HBS) class, entitled “Tackling Inequality” in which students were learning about issues of social justice, educational inequity and the role nonprofit organizations play in confronting these realities. The class was split into four groups, each of which was working on a project with a different organization. I had the opportunity to advise them on both their research agenda and recommended course of action... and to remind myself of the virtuous cycle this kind of conversation helps create. The nonprofit world is marked by its open source approach to great ideas and resources and its interest in supporting peer organizations, in part because we all realize just how significant the need for our services is.