George Lucas Educational Foundation

After-School Mentors Matter at Citizen Schools

Through the Citizen Schools program, professionals team up with public middle schools to create an enhanced learning community after the school day ends. More to this story.
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After-School Mentors Matter at Citizen Schools (Transcript)

Parent 1: Okay, so now what games did you make? How do you win this game?

Student 1: There's still like the score. It's like one hundred points per shot.

Voice Over: At this end of semester fair at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, dozens of middle school students are presenting work they've done in after school apprenticeships, to an audience of parents, teachers, and business people.

Parent 1: That is so cool.

Voice Over: Similar events around the country celebrate the work of Citizen Schools, which operates a national network of apprenticeship programs for middle school students, connecting adult volunteers to young people with hands on projects.

Eric Schwarz: We need to take a whole different look at how we do education, and do more enrichment and really get back to looking at the whole child.

Voice Over: Citizen Schools co-founder, Eric Schwarz, believes education is everyone’s job.

Eric Schwarz; I think this is a big idea, and the idea of tapping into millions of citizen teachers and mentors, and democratizing what it means to be a teacher in America, is the wave of the future.

Student 2: With that, you put the ring and then you hammer on it--

Eric Schwarz: At its essence, Citizen Schools partners with public schools to expand the learning day and then fill up that longer day with all kinds of cool stuff that turns kids on to learning, and helps them be successful.

Teacher 1: So you can add a little bit of blue.

Voice Over: Students spend three hours, four days a week in Citizen School after school programs. Two times a week, they work with mentors in their chosen apprenticeship.

Teacher 2: So you’re gonna hold the bezel roller--

Voice Over: In the remaining time, paid Citizen Schools staff teachers offer students homework help and coach them on school navigation skills.

Josseling: When I go to Citizen School, the next day, I listen more, I practice more what I’m doing, math, sciences, and reading.

I now know that I can do so many things and it’s fun doing them.

Francisco Paguaga Irias: [speaking Spanish]

Voice Over: My daughter has improved her English and her ability to express herself in public.

Francisco Paguaga Irias: Yo me siento agusto con la programa--

Voice Over: I’m very pleased with the program because it has helped her with everything, her studies and her class participation.

Josseling: How to make it double.

Teacher 2: Yeah, so we double them up, right.

Voice Over: The internships cover a wide spectrum, from jewelry making to robotics to sewing.

Teresita Callado: And now you have to do the same thing for the other one too.

I love sewing. I’ve been sewing half of my life and I am happy to share what I know with the kids, and they seem to be liking it, enjoying it, and they’re learning. You can see it.

Teacher 3: We know what you’re gonna teach. We know the skills that you want the kids to get out of it. We--

Voice Over: In a three hour session, before the semester begins, Citizen Schools trainers help the volunteer mentors refine what they’re like to teach.

Teacher 3: So if you wanna teach computers, let’s narrow that down to web design--

Voice Over: And mentors receive staff support throughout the semester.

Olga Sverdlov: Some Citizen teachers need a lot of support, ones who haven’t worked with kids before, especially when we go to different places, like a law office or Google. It’s my role to support them, however they need to be supported.

Doug Felt: They’ve been good about making regular contact with me once a week just to see how things are, helping me sort of-- in a gentle way to sort of develop my ability to organize how I teach and what I teach a little bit better, given that I’m not a professional by any stretch of the imagination.

Well, there’s two things I can think of right off the bat.

Voice Over: Google software engineer, Doug Felt, taught a robotics apprenticeship.

Doug Felt: As a software engineer, I spend a lot of my time dealing with very intricate, detailed things and this is so completely separate from that. It’s personal, it’s immediate, and gives me a chance to do something different that is giving to the community [inaudible] yeah, okay.

Eric Schwarz: Citizen Schools introduces the talented adults in a community, who probably don’t have kids in that school and kinda connects them to kids in that school and allows them to be a resource. And that’s exciting, because I think too often, schools are isolated from the larger community.

Voice Over: The after school program forges a community of volunteers, parents, teachers and students.

Olga Sverdlov: I talk to their teachers once a week to keep up on homework and how they’re doing and then I talk to the kids about what their teachers say. Also I talk to their parents once every two weeks and sorta update them on how the kids are doing in program, you know, socially and academically, and also what their teachers have said, to sort of complete the circle between everyone involved.

Cheryl Bracco: And then where does the chain go?

Student 3: The chain will go into the--

Cheryl Bracco: It’s win-win for me, because it’s just like I have an expanded staff, and so everybody is a team. Everybody is focused on a connection between the classroom and the after school program. And I think that the real key to the Citizen Schools success is the fact that the Citizen Schools staff is considered part of our staff. So when the students see them walking around, they don’t consider them any different than the teachers or anybody else that’s on our campus, and so it’s seamless.

Teacher 4: You’re still working on your pictures, right?

Voice Over: The Citizen Schools program has also generated positive results in the form of higher attendance rates and test scores.

Eric Schwarz: We’re trying to pack more and more stuff into a fixed six hour day in the schools, and achievement is highly variable and Citizen Schools, by turning that around and saying achievement oughta be fixed at a high level, time oughta be variable and kids oughta have nine or ten hours to learn. We’re kind of an escape valve for the pressure that schools are under.

Kris: Well, all I know is, it’s better than my last program, because you get to go to explorations. You get more time on your homework. You get to do really cool apprenticeships, have fun. So at Citizen Schools, this is the perfect place.

We needed the servo module, the motors and we put those tires there in the front so it could make it turn faster.

Eric Schwarz: When kids realize that the learning has a real link to careers, a real link to college and a real link to these kind of cool experts who’ve just invited them into their office, that sets off all kinds of positive alarm bells for the kids and really incentivizes them to try harder, to care about school.

Student 5: Okay, they win. I won. Okay.

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Amy Erin Borovoy


  • Karen Sutherland

Production Assistant

  • Neil Tan

Camera Crew

  • Brian Cardello
  • Caven Keith
  • Shari Wargo


  • Michael Pritchard

Original Music

  • Ed Bogas

Additional Footage Courtesy of

  • Citizen Schools

Executive Producer

  • Ken Ellis

Comments (2) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

noy's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

What can I say. This is simply wonderful, when children have something to do after school, exploring the world and making new discoveries every day.

Daniel F. Bassill's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This video shows what is possible if a creative group of people can find the funding and business support to organize and deliver this type of activity to youth in non-school settings.

I would like to expand the thinking of places where such programs and volunteers could connect with kids to include non-school, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs operating in community centers, non profit organizations, faith based organizations, etc. of Chicago and other cities. For this to happen the programs need leaders who look at these ideas and want to incorporate them in their programs, and they need donors and business partners to provide the volunteers and financial support.

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