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New program has professionals teaching students real world skills

Citizen Schools in New York

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The Citizen Schools program is bringing private sector professionals into urban public schools to share their expertise with youth after classes let out, according to The Atlantic Cities:

The regular school day may be over at the Global Technology Preparatory school in New York’s East Harlem, but the students are still hard at work.

In rooms all over the building, kids are learning how to make video games, create and market products, run for political office, and much more, all under the instruction of professionals who are volunteering their time to teach kids real-world skills.

It’s all part of a program called Citizen Schools, which aims to enrich the offerings of urban public schools by extending the school day and bringing in members of the private sector to share their knowledge and expertise.

Eighth-graders in the video-game workshop, taught by employees of Intent Media, are riveted to the lines of code on their screens, creating games incorporating images they find online, and in some cases their own original artwork. In an entrepreneurship workshop run by staff from the asset management firm AllianceBernstein, sixth-graders are coming up with hypothetical snack foods and marketing plans. One team has decided to go with individually packaged red velvet cake, calling them Dynamite Cakes. “The slogan is, ‘‘Taste the blast!’” says a boy named Eric.

The Citizen Schools program, founded in 1995 in Boston, brings people from corporations such as Google, Raytheon, Microsoft, Amgen, and many more into 31 middle schools in low-income neighborhoods around the country. There, the professionals teach 10-week apprenticeships that lead up to a final presentation called WOW!, where the students show off the work they have accomplished. In the case of the entrepreneurship group, they’ll be pitching their ideas to a panel of AllianceBernstein staff who will react as potential investors. The kids watched clips from the reality TV show “Shark Tank” to prepare.

The central idea of Citizen Schools is to extend and complement the work that teachers are doing with the kids during the regular school day. Many of the apprenticeships focus on STEM skills – science, technology, engineering, and math. Volunteers from Google have helped kids build computers. Texas Instruments and Apache Corp. have mentored students in building electric cars.

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