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Social Capitalists: Citizen School

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
2007 Social Capitalist Winner

Citizen Schools

Boston, MA
Year founded: 1995
CEO: Eric Schwarz

In an era of declining social mobility, low-income students are at great risk of being caught in a downward spiral of decreasing educational and economic opportunity. Citizen Schools is working to change that.

American students spend 80% of their waking hours outside of school. And while heated conflict over training, testing, and tenure has divided the teaching profession, these disputes ignore the millions of ordinary citizens who are ready and willing to contribute to the learning of our young people. Citizen Schools looks beyond the school walls and outside of the school day—and we see vast, untapped opportunity.

Our network of intensive after-school programs seizes that opportunity and strives to move low-income students onto a success track. By engaging students in doing and teaching as opposed to merely hearing and seeing, by connecting them to their communities through volunteer Citizen Teachers and explorations of civic, cultural and business institutions, Citizen Schools challenges them to be producers, leaders, and stewards of their own futures. A rigorous independent study has reported that Citizen Schools students out-perform their peers on key metrics of educational advancement.

Citizen Schools seeks to spark a broad re-imagining of after-school learning. We are cultivating a cadre of professional after-school educators with the National Teaching Fellowship, a master’s degree program concurrent with on-the-job AmeriCorps service. We facilitate symposia, policy discussions, and cross-sector alliances to expand the dialogue about education in America. The nascent after-school sector, currently fragmented and under-resourced, can become the example our nation desperately needs—a place where communities come together to advance the learning of young people and to celebrate their contributions.

The Program

Citizen Schools programs operate in public school buildings four afternoons per week, from school dismissal until around 6 p.m. throughout the school year. The schedule combines hands-on apprenticeships, skill-building projects, community explorations, team-based activities, and homework time.

Our model’s signature element is the apprenticeship. We engage volunteers from all walks of life to share what they know and love. These Citizen Teachers meet with small groups of students on hands-on projects that result in authentic products that they share with their school and community. Embedded in each apprenticeship are the 21st century skills most essential to success in the global economy, like writing, data analysis, and technology.

We also believe that school success is essential for the life trajectory of young people, and that attention in the middle school years is vital in determining high-school graduation, college attainment, career success and community leadership. Our dynamic professional educators link in-school and out-of-school learning through concentrated academic support, including homework time and school navigation.


Citizen Schools was founded in 1995 by Eric Schwarz and Ned Rimer, who continue to lead the organization today as President and Managing Director, respectively. Eric and Ned taught Citizen Schools’ first apprenticeships, working with small groups of fifth graders to publish a community newspaper and to deliver first aid in their school. They piloted the idea at the Paul A. Dever Elementary School in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood in 1995. In academic year 2006-07, Citizen Schools will serve 3,300 students in 30 campuses in five states—California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Texas.

Get Involved

Citizen Schools has bold aspirations for its students and for the after-school field. Your support will help those young people achieve, and lead the re-imagining of learning that our nation so urgently needs. Give online today, learn how you can become a Citizen Teacher, and spread the word to friends in the communities we serve that Citizen Schools provides a unique volunteer opportunity.

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