I first heard about Citizen Schools when I was a senior in college. I was wondering what I should do upon graduation in May, and I was looking for a chance to really make a difference in children’s lives. I choose to apply to Citizen Schools because of the unique opportunity it affords. I could be a teacher, event organizer, and liaison between the student, his or her family, his or her teachers, and his or her community. It was an opportunity to provide students with a network of support to help them succeed personally, academically, and one day professionally.
I was ecstatic to be welcomed into the Citizen Schools Teaching Fellowship. I chose to work in New Mexico because I wanted to experience another part of the country (I am born and raised in New York City). I can honestly say that this Fellowship has changed who I am. I have taken risks, experienced new challenges, and gained new skills that I did not think possible before. In my first year in Albuquerque, I devised Math lesson plans, co-led apprenticeships on topics I had little prior knowledge of, and organized events to honor the daytime teachers in our Middle School. Before Citizen Schools, I was still pretty uncomfortable speaking in public. Since joining, it happens so often that I actually quite enjoy it and look for ways to improve my abilities in that area.
Citizen Schools has also enabled me to work on a Native American Reservation called Mescalero. This is an experience I will hold on to for the rest of my life. Each day has been a process of gaining trust, sharing my own cultural backgrounds, and learning about the culture in Mescalero. Many beliefs I held have been revealed to me for the first time, as they were beliefs I never reflected on before. These include concepts of time, community, history, professional aspirations, and individualism. In this new environment, I have learned equally as much about the proud Apache people as I have about myself and the place I have grown up. In Brooklyn, you may never meet your neighbors. In Mescalero, your neighbor has a good probability of being directly related to you. In Mescalero, it seems that everyone knows each other and is related to each other through one way or the other, and thus community plays a huge role. In Brooklyn, you get accustomed to passing hundreds of people each day whose name or background will never be learned by you.
This is the first year that Citizen Schools has operated in a rural, Native land. We are asking for help to continue this exhilarating and important partnership. We are aiming to help this community prosper in a way that reflects the wants and needs of the community being served. Any donation will go a far way in helping Citizen Schools achieve its mission of bridging the achievement gap and strengthening communities!