When I was a teenager, I was certain that I wanted to be a journalist when I grew up. I loved the news, I loved writing, and I loved speaking on camera. Fortunately for me, I had parents with the means to send me to journalism conferences, schools with extracurricular activities like video yearbook where I got to try on my reporter hat, and guidance counselors at a college-track high school that were able to identify the very best college for me to major in journalism. In a nutshell, from the time I was young I was privileged to be on a path to college graduation and success in a career of my choice.
Sadly, most children growing up in low-income communities around this country do not have these same opportunities. Just half of students growing up in low-income communities graduate from high school on time. Only 1 in 10 graduate from college. Educational inequity is the civil rights issue of our time and you can help do something about it.
At Citizen Schools, we have an ambitious mission to put all middle school students on a path to college and career success. First, we expand the learning day for students to give them the time they need to practice and review academic content and increase their grades and academic proficiency. This helps them become more competitive and prepared for a college-track high school. Second, we spend a portion of our time with these middle school students each week getting them ready for college through college and career exploration classes and taking them on college visits. Finally, we get students excited about the future and setting long-term goals for themselves by engaging them in apprenticeships that allow them to explore future careers and make the connection between the academics they are learning in middle school and a variety of professions. These apprenticeships are taught by volunteer "Citizen Teachers" who bring their profession to life for the adolescents we serve.
In the picture at right you see one of our sixth grade students arguing a mock trial in front a jury of adults and a real federal judge (not shown). The confidence, poise, and presence this student displayed came after 10 weeks of working alongside attorneys from a leading Boston law firm to learn about litigation and prepare for this trial. This young man, as well as his classmates in the apprenticeship, had to learn new legal vocabulary, beef up their writing skills, and engage in complex problem solving to prove their side of the case. Their final project--a mock trial at the Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston--brought all of these pieces together and helped students to demonstrate mastery, feel confident, and see how important it is to have strong language arts skills in order to become successful lawyers.
Our students work alongside professionals who volunteer their time to teach apprenticeships on a far-reaching variety of topics. Engineers build solar cars with students, computer scientists teach our middle schoolers how to program robots, architects inspire them to create scale models of new buildings, musicians bring out their creativity through lyric writing. And yes... journalists have our students conducting interviews, writing articles, and passionately telling a story on camera. In other words, Citizen Schools and our unique apprenticeship model is giving students growing up in poverty the same types of opportunities that I had access to as a child--and helping these students to set their own goals for the future and understand the hard work and educational pathway it will take to achieve those goals. It's working. Our students have significantly higher attendance rates in middle school and high school than matched peer groups, get better grades in math and language arts, and attend college-track high schools at higher rates.
Citizen Schools has a national network of staff and volunteers working extremely hard to serve our students at the highest levels--and we need to continue to grow and serve even more students in order to reach our long term goals. Please help us continue to strengthen our work and provide more students with the educational opportunities they deserve.
Every donation helps--whether you can give $10, $50, $100 or more. Please join me in supporting this work and putting more students on a path to future success. I am in my fifth year at this organization and am more and more compelled each day by the work we are doing--and every donation truly helps.
Thank you for your tremendous support of me over the years. While I did not ultimately become a journalist, everything I learned along the way to getting there informed my ultimate decision to commit my life to closing the achievement gap--and helped me be better prepared to do that. Your support and encouragement has helped me to continue in this difficult work and push even harder for the children of this country day after day and year after year.
All my best to you,