Family and Friends, as you know, I have been working in Albuquerque, New Mexico since August 2010 to help close our country's achievement gap. Through the organization that I work for - Citizen Schools - I provide a structured, welcoming, and engaging environment for 20 6th grade students to complete their homework. Not only that, I work with these 20 students on setting goals, sharpening their foundational skills in their core subjects, and getting to know them on a personal level so that I can truly understand their situation and needs.
Another element of my work is teaching hands-on classes in the afterschool time, specifically about how to get to college, math, and 21st century skills through something we call apprenticeships led by a staff member like me and volunteers from the community. This semester, my two apprenticeships are "Stories to the Stage" and "Robotics", the latter with volunteers from the airforce base. In this ambitious organization, I also serve as our Family & Student Engagement Lead, which means I coordinate family events, our weekly family communication, field trips, awards ceremonies, celebrations, and other enrichment programming.
Citizen Schools is an organization on the forefront of the struggle to improve our country's public education system, and my staff and I are part of that fight everyday. This fundraiser exists to harness the social networks all of my organization's employees are part of, to raise money for all of New Mexico Citizen School at a grassroots level. Citizen Schools is a national organization, but we have three campuses in this state - one in Mescalero on an Apache Reservation, one in Albuquerque, and one in Santa Fe. All money raised here will go directly to these three campuses.
On each of these campuses, young people like me are doing amazing work, work that I have been able to observe the positive effects of for these almost two years. Last week, during my structured homework time called "A.I.M." (Aspire. Invest. Make the Grade.) one of my students, Michael, came in late. He had been in the principal's office, where the administration threatened that he might be kicked out of school. "What happened Michael?" I asked. "Miss, we were fooling around in Language Arts, and I already got in trouble earlier this week." I heard Michael out for a few minutes, scared that he might actually be expelled. Nervous that if he were expelled, he would have to become a part of a whole new, potentially much less supportive and strict community. He might even not enroll in another school at all. The school system wasn't able to keep up with every expelled student.
"Okay, Michael, I know you are upset. But let's focus on your math homework or reading log." I said. "No, I don't want to. I don't want to do anything." "Michael, what helps me when I am upset is to focus my mind on something else. I know it is hard right now, but I promise you will feel better if you distract yourself." "I don't want to, miss." "Okay, let's take a look at this math worksheet". I squatted next to Michael at his desk and worked through the first multiplying decimals problem with him. He knew exactly what to do. "See, Michael! You know this stuff! You're really good at it." Some switch went on in Michael's mind that he could do it, and he could do it even if he was feeling badly; he got right down to work on his math homework after that. Throughout the rest of A.I.M., he raised his hand to ask me questions about different problems. If Michael had left school right after his meeting with the administration, who knows what trouble he might have gotten into on his way home. He was angry. He was feeling hopeless. His self-esteem and positivity were at a low. Neither of his parents would be home until 11pm because of their service-industry jobs.
Because Michael is part of Citizen Schools, he has that emotional and academic support from me and the rest of the staff. Michael can be a successful student; what he needs is this one-on-one attention. What he needs is someone to help him change his way of thinking, to tell him that he can do it; because we work with students in the afterschool time and in smaller teams than what they are used to during the schoolday, we are able to take the time to do this. After A.I.M., Michael went to Robotics where he vigilantly completed a worksheet about the history of computers. I had never seen him so focused on an assignment before, but this apprenticeship allows for groups of 3-4 students to have one mentor from the airforce base, a mentor who studied engineering or physics or robots for years. Caring adults like these take an hour and a half out of their week to serve as second-shift educators, and the capacity of our organization allows for much more attention to be put on the development of each student - emotionally, socially, and academically - by all the Citizen Schools adults. I've seen this firsthand.
I hope you will decide to donate to Citizen Schools, seeing the life-changing work that is being done. Any amount - even $10 - would be greatly appreciated. You can help us in the fight to close the achievement gap by participating in this fundraiser!