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How Citizen Schools Works to Close the Opportunity Gap

By January 21, 2019
Citizen Schools volunteers helping the community on MLK Day of Service in 2017

Citizen Schools volunteers helping the community on MLK Day of Service in 2017

“Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By: Kathy Zaleska, Customer Marketing Manager,

While talent is everywhere, the opportunity to develop the skills, mindsets, and networks needed for success is not. By the time they reach middle school, it has been shown that middle school students from middle-class families have spent 6,000 more hours learning than kids born into poverty. That’s where nonprofit organizations such as Citizen Schools come in, helping young students get the tools and networks that they need to later thrive as adults in a fast-moving economy.

We are honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by recognizing Citizen Schools, a nonprofit that is carrying forward his legacy by working to close the opportunity gap. Here’s what they’re working on to empower youth:

  • Expanded Learning Time (ELT) model. Volunteer ‘Citizen Teachers’, who are subject matter experts from the local community, teach 10-week apprenticeships in middle schools, helping students learn about a variety of topics and put what they’ve learned into practice. At the end of each semester, Citizen Schools students participate in a WOW! event where the tables are turned; the students take what they’ve learned to teach teachers, parents, and other members from the community.
  • The Catalyst model brings the core of their Expanded Learning Time model – the apprenticeship – to life during the traditional school day, helping to inspire students, bring real-world relevance to what they’re learning in school, and increase interest in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM).
  • Participation in US2020, where Citizen Schools connects STEM mentors to volunteer opportunities across the country network through a network of local coalitions that provide hands-on STEM education and maker-centered learning opportunities for students.
Citizen Schools students participating in a mock trial as part of their apprenticeships

Citizen Schools students participating in a mock trial as part of their apprenticeships

Helping Community Members Help Their Communities

In addition to working with young people in schools, Citizen Schools’ team of AmeriCorps Teaching Fellows and VISTAs (Volunteers in Service to America), who share the goals of Citizen Schools, work alongside experienced educators and expert volunteers from the local community to help make meaningful changes in their communities.

“Not only are we closing the opportunity gap with our students, but we have the privilege to shape the minds and hearts of young public servants,” says Brandi Jimenez, Citizen Schools’ Director of National Service. “We are investing in our students, and we are investing in communities all across the country. As a public servant myself, that’s really all that matters.”
Honoring Dr. King Through Acts of Service
Today, on the MLK Day of Service, those Citizen Schools Teaching Fellows and VISTAs join AmeriCorps members across the US for a “day on, not a day off” participating in a variety of public service projects.

Here are a few examples of service projects in which Citizen Schools is participating:

  • In Massachusetts, Citizen Schools will join these four organizations, in part by facilitating their discussions about the importance of Dr. King’s legacy: Freedom House, MassArt, English for Advancement, and Massachusetts Promise Fellowship.
  • In California, AmeriCorps members in the Bay Area are helping at homeless shelters and making the great outdoors a little greater, planting trees and cleaning up the ocean shore.
  • In New York City, AmeriCorps members are assembling food packages for those who receive services from the Community Kitchen and Pantry in West Harlem.

“MLK Day of Service is a way to honor his life and teachings by engaging in community action that continues to solve social problems,” Jimenez says. “Service breaks down barriers by bringing people from different experiences together—volunteering can unite Americans of all ages and backgrounds while building stronger communities.”

Using Salesforce to Scale Acts of Service

Citizen Schools aims to make a big impact in 2019 by thinking big, all while maintaining a community focus. According to its website, the organization plans to “serve over 100,000 students in 28 communities across the United States — reimagining the way students learn in the classroom, after school, and in our communities — to ensure equal opportunity for all.”

At that scale, to organize volunteers, track their impact and student engagement, and fundraise effectively, Citizen Schools counts on Nonprofit Cloud. To find out how Salesforce can help scale your nonprofit efforts, learn more on Trailhead or read this e-book about Nonprofit Cloud.

“Salesforce does so many things for us, from revenue forecasting to relationship management, to tracking volunteer impact and student engagement, Jimenez says. “Nowadays, we have to rely on the data to shape and frame our strategy, and we do this by using the Salesforce platform.”

And because Citizen Schools must change its focus depending on the needs of both its programs and the job market, it also uses Salesforce to keep its operations flexible.

“One of the very best things I’ve heard about our use of Salesforce is the capability to customize the platform to what works for our specific needs at any one point in time,” Jimenez says. “What we needed 10 years ago is not what we need now, and Salesforce has grown with us and allowed us the flexibility and adaptability to adjust.”

Get Involved and Volunteer!

Learn more about how to help Citizen School’s further its mission to close the opportunity gap here on their website:

And wherever you are—on the MLK Day of Service or any other day—consider volunteering in your community so we can build a better future, together.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.