Citizen Schools' mission is to educate youth and strengthen communities, but as a Teaching Fellow at Citizen Schools (California - class of '08), I learned a lot myself.
I learned how products are designed, how Ghanian jollof rice is made, how books are bound, how websites for mobile phones are coded. By bringing volunteers from diverse fields into schools to teach their expertise, Citizen Schools Apprenticeships give kids - and teachers! - the chance to learn things about the world that will enrich their lives for years to come, and perhaps inspire them to careers and lifelong pursuits. This is the "fringe" of learning, the learning that sticks with us, that overwhelmed public schools struggling with below-grade-level reading and math skills and compelled to meet standardized test score targets are unable to provide.
I learned that teaching is a tough, tough job. The best and brightest teachers draw on deep reserves of creativity, compassion, determination and relentless enthusiasm to "move the needle," giving their all in pursuit of the smallest gains and rewards: a third of a letter grade improvement on a test, a positive attitude, a comment from a colleague or parent on a student's improvement. I learned that the success of millions of current and future students depends on our ability to move smart, kind, hardworking college graduates into the classroom, train them to teach creatively and collaboratively, and keep them there.
I learned that my city was filled with people who wanted to get involved in the movement to support schools, enrich what they are able to offer, and make public education better for our deserving kids and communities. Incredible volunteers of all ages and fields spent hours in the classroom teaching what they loved, whether it was banking, biking or barking (i.e. dog training, the best apprenticeship of all time). These volunteers breached the invisible wall between the two sides of my city: one side tech companies, law firms, well-educated professionals and modest million dollar homes; the other fast food restaurants, gangs, low-income families and dilapidated apartment complexes near the freeway. The community was better for it.
I learned that, to succeed in school and pursue college and careers, low-income youth need to spend more time learning and exploring, improving their reading and math skills, and thinking about their futures with help from great teachers and role models.
This year, I was proud to re-join the Citizen Schools team as Operations Manager for the Texas region. I hope you will join me in supporting an outstanding organization that partners with schools to provide more of what youth need most:
more time spent learning critical skills
more opportunities to explore interesting topics and fields that regular school can't cover
more information about the path to college and careers
more exposure to great role models
more outstanding college graduates on the path to careers in education
more opportunities for volunteers to engage meaningfully in changing their communities
I hope you will consider joining me in supporting Citizen Schools to educate youth and strengthen communities. Please consider chipping in $25 to support Citizen Schools's work in Texas.
Every semester, Citizen Schools students showed off their new skills and hard work at the WOW! Showcase, and the pride on their faces - and that of their parents - after an evenng of Mock Trial speeches, dance performances, science experiments, and more was unforgettable. It is my hope that my network of friends and family can contribute $300 - the cost of supplies and food for one WOW! Showcase.
Those of you who know me well - or pay close attention to birthdays on Facebook! - will know that my birthday is coming up on February 15th. It is my birthday wish to raise my goal of $300 by February 28th.
Thanks for reading, and for all you do for the youth in your community and mine!