Citizen Schools Recap

by Allie Smith

Last fall, fif­teen vol­un­teers from the Social Enter­prise Insti­tute par­tic­i­pated in a social entre­pre­neur­ship pro­gram in part­ner­ship with Cit­i­zen Schools pro­gram. Cit­i­zen Schools is an orga­ni­za­tion that part­ners with mid­dle schools across the coun­try to offer extended day pro­grams to stu­dents in low per­form­ing schools. The Cit­i­zen Schools model brings “Cit­i­zen Teach­ers” in to teach stu­dents about their exper­tise after school once a week. Mid­dle school stu­dents become “appren­tices” to their teach­ers, learn­ing through pur­pose­fully hands-on and inter­ac­tive exer­cises. Teach­ers range from local busi­ness peo­ple and engi­neers to lawyers and pol­icy mak­ers, and the sub­ject of the appren­tice­ships vary cor­re­spond­ingly. The cur­ricu­lum of every Cit­i­zen Schools pro­gram is geared towards build­ing “21st cen­tury skills”, which includes col­lab­o­ra­tion, global aware­ness, and prob­lem solv­ing. All appren­tice­ships end with  “WOW!”- an oppor­tu­nity for the stu­dents to show­case what they’ve learned with their fam­ily, friends, and com­mu­nity members.

SEI’s vol­un­teers taught a pro­gram called “BizKids” at Orchard Gar­dens K-8, just a few blocks from Northeastern’s cam­pus. The BizKids appren­tice­ship is aimed at teach­ing stu­dents the basics of open­ing a busi­ness, how to mar­ket and sell a prod­uct, the prin­ci­pals of micro-finance, and how global poverty can be helped through entre­pre­neur­ial solu­tions. To instill these lessons, stu­dents focused on one main project through­out the semes­ter: start­ing their own small-scale social busi­nesses with the inten­tion of donat­ing all prof­its to Kiva, a web based plat­form which facil­i­tates peer to peer lend­ing all over the world.

In busi­ness groups of five BizKids, stu­dents rang­ing from sixth to eighth­grade cre­ated hand­made prod­ucts aimed at the col­lege stu­dent mar­ket: neon painted sun­glasses, tote bags announc­ing inspi­ra­tional mes­sages, trucker hats, and col­or­ful choco­lates were some of the prod­ucts. At the WOW! held on Northeastern’s cam­pus, stu­dents made their prod­uct pitch to prospec­tive cus­tomers pass­ing through, sell­ing most of their inven­tory and impress­ing cus­tomers with their fan­tas­tic pub­lic speak­ing skills and confidence.

High­lights of the appren­tice­ship included vis­it­ing Haley House in Rox­bury on a field trip, watch­ing stu­dents mas­ter the tech­niques of an ele­va­tor prod­uct pitch, and design­ing and cre­at­ing the excit­ing prod­ucts.  This semes­ter, vol­un­teers from SEI will be at Orchard Gar­dens again, lead­ing the new “Take Back the Kitchen” Appren­tice­ship Pro­gram with Haley House. 


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