Thank you for visiting my fundraising page! I truly believe that without Citizen Schools (and in particular 8GA), these students might go to a high school with low graduation rates and low college enrollment. This program expands the borders of their world. Students see college as something tangible, something achievable, something to aspire to.
Times are certainly tough right now and even a small donation will truly benefit these students (as we’ve seen a dramatic cut in our budget as well)! Please take a moment and read this story about Rachel- you’ll get a good idea of why I love these students and spend 60+ hours each week helping them succeed.
Every little bit counts.(See below for a list of what $5 will help provide!) Thank you for your generosity!
$5 covers the cost of one set of special prizes or snacks to celebrate a student team recognized for demonstrating values like teamwork, respect, leadership and perseverance.
$18 covers the public transportation costs for a team of 12 students to go on a college trip to any number of our Boston-area colleges.
$80 provides one semester of materials and support for one apprenticeship team. An apprenticeship is a focused learning time between 12 students and a community volunteer with a professional skill to share. Some examples of the apprenticeships include architecture, solar cars, law and mock trials, networking, EMT, marketing, website design, community service, and self-defense. I’m currently teaching an apprenticeship called “Page to STAGE! at the Garfield Middle School in Revere, where students improve their literacy skills by adapting a children's book into a play and perform it for kindergarteners!
$150 Provides subway fare for one team of 8th grade students to meet their wriitng coach mentors biweekly for an entire semester!
Between her purple jeans, neon socks and enormous grin, Rachel is hard to miss. In August I was told that this strong-willed 13 year old student had been in Citizen Schools for both 6th and 7th grade and had enormous potential to be a leader. I had been told that she stubbornly resisted doing homework but could really shine during her apprenticeships, particularly mock trials and EMT.
“I hated you at first,” Rachel admitted during a speech she gave at the 8GA graduation. She, like all of the other girls on my team constantly compared our team dynamic and lessons to ones that had done with their old team leader. Whether explicitly or implicitly, Rachel tested my patience on numerous occasions. She could frequently be caught sleeping during the 8th Grade Academy (8GA) lessons, and completely refused to engage with her other teammates. She bemoaned choice time, apprenticeships and explorations, claiming “we’ve done this twice before.” When asked to pull out her homework during AIM, she would stare at me blankly and then return to playing with the glue and markers I kept in my supply kit. By 8th grade, Rachel had enjoyed but had ultimately outgrown Citizen Schools and needed new program elements and challenges to motivate and inspire her.
Her negative attitude translated into poor attendance for both 8GA and for school. She missed the first three Saturday statewide program days altogether and had 17 instancies of tardiness at the Rogers from first quarter alone. (I later learned that such poor attendance might have jeopardized her chances for promotion to the next grade level). Rachel and her family’s dedication to 8GA and Citizen Schools were called into question by me and even our program director. After weeks of having Rachel in program, I was asked to evaluate her level of commitment to the program. I wrote: “she's a student who I really think will benefit from Citizen Schools and 8GA in particular. She is in the "honors" classes at the Rogers, is a bright girl and has lots of potential. However, she does not seem to have a clear sense of where she wants to be next year or what her future goals are. She is being held to high expectations in her classes and has the skills to reach them, but needs some support and guidance.”
Like most transformations, Rachel’s took time and small, steady progress. I was disappointed with Rachel’s first quarter grades, not because of the marks (two C plusses in ELA and Math) but because her weaknesses came from lack of effort, not lack of intelligence. I did not know what to expect for my “Grades and Goals” conference with Rachel. Despite my fears, she listened diligently and wrote realistic goals (to boost her C plusses to Bs by next quarter to achieve honor roll status). She mentioned that she sometimes needed help on her math and came up with the idea of visiting her math teacher after school for 30 minutes twice per week before she came to AIM. That way, she could get any questions she needed answered and arrive to AIM ready to work. As a team leader fortunate to spend my mornings at the school, her math teacher, Ms. Conners and I developed a close bond through our twice-weekly communication where she gave me updates on her missing homework assignments and skill gaps so that I could work with her during AIM. I began putting math worksheets on my clipboard and by the end of snack, Rachel had devoured them, completing 50 computations in 5 minute chunks.
I credit the 8GA Writing Program and the high-energy Saturday explorations as the elements that re-built Rachel’s enthusiasm for Citizen Schools. The dedication and patience of Rachel’s writing coach, Elizabeth Rahn, gave her the one-on-one attention that she craved and the mix of students from Boston coupled with “beat the staff” games convinced Rachel that 8GA was special and worth attending. The same student who missed the first three Saturdays begged and pleaded with her family to drive her to our January Boston University trip, and then asked the college students several intelligent questions at the Communications Department.
As winter began we entered “high school application season”, the exhausting period when students took the knowledge they had gained about high school vocabulary and analyzing high school data and began selecting potential high schools. “And how many high schools did you apply to?” became Rachel’s saucy retort whenever any other 8GA student teased or mocked her. She was the first student on my team to reach the “Lucky 7” challenge by the end of January (applying to 7 or more college-prep high schools in order to boost one’s number of high school options). She set the bar high and was the catalyst for getting the rest of my team excited about applying to high school. She succeeded when 10 out of my 12 students achieved the “Lucky 7” goal and the average number of high school applications exceeded 7 per student.
By springtime Rachel had blossomed. All told, she applied to 11 college-prep high schools, and enrolled in Mount Saint Joseph Academy, an independent all-girls school where she had been given a full scholarship and a mentor for four years. She not only maintained her honor roll status, but improved. B minuses became B plusses or A’s and Rachel took immense pride in her accomplishments. I smile now while remembering that Sunday afternoon in April when I received Rachel’s text message in all capital letters, “JENNIFER I FORGOT TO TELL YOU I GOT AN A- IN MATH!” She was no longer a student of concern for her ELA or Math teachers but was able to keep up and set the bar for her fellow classmates.
Rachel became one of my most trustworthy students and leaders. She gave up her lunch period with the other three members of the “leadership committee” to come to the Citizen Schools office and help plan our “legacy project” dinner. If her mom was late picking her up from program, she’d help make posters for the dinner. “Anything for 8GA, ” she often said to me. Just as she started crying during her speech at graduation (while saying goodbye to her team and team leader), I began tearing up during one particular moment in mid-May. We had just announced to the campus that Citizen Schools would not be returning in the fall, and Rachel asked me if she could say something in front of the campus. With a quiet voice and tears in her eyes, she slowly explained, “Even though Citizen Schools is ending, remember that you 7th graders have us, you have 8GA to help you out.” I can’t believe that the same student who slept through 8GA lessons would now identify so strongly with her team and the program. She is a current member of our 9th Grade Leadership Council, where she has come back to Citizen Schools to improve her public speaking and leadership skills.
Rachel would explain her own growth just as I have (but perhaps with a bit more pizzazz). As a gifted writer, Rachel used her article for 8GA’s Bridging Magazine to do just that. “Where ever I choose to go,” she wrote, “this whole high school application process has been the best life-changing experience. Kids usually do what their friends do and go with their friends where ever they go. I was in the same position. Applying to 11 schools made me realize that I am becoming an adult with each school I apply to. If my team leader never given me that [high school information] packet, I would be 11 steps behind.”
Rachel is now a freshman at Mount Saint Joseph Academy, where she has earned a nearly full scholarship and a mentor for four year. She loves learning French and aims to practice law (or medicine!) in the future.