Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

Social Capitalists: Citizen Schools

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
Social Capitalist 2008 Winner

Citizen Schools

Eric Schwarz, CEOt
Boston, Massachusetts
Make a Donation

Educating Youth, Strengthening Communities

Citizen Schools is a leading national education initiative that uniquely mobilizes thousands of adult volunteers to help improve student achievement by teaching skill-building apprenticeships after-school. Our programs blend these real-world learning projects with rigorous academic and leadership development activities, preparing students in the middle grades for success in high school, college, the workforce, and civic life.

The Challenge and the Opportunity Children spend just 20% of their waking hours in school, yet we expect schools to shoulder almost all the responsibility for their futures. A child’s capacity to learn doesn’t end with the final bell. Nor does the capacity to teach vanish outside the population of full-time professional educators. 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, Citizen Schools challenges them to be producers, leaders, and stewards of their own futures. A rigorous independent study has reported that Citizen Schools students outperform 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 corps 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. We believe that the after-school sector 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 for 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.


Citizen Schools was founded in 1995 by Eric Schwarz, who remains with Citizen Schools as president & CEO, and Ned Rimer. 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. In academic year 2007-08, Citizen Schools will serve 3,800 students at 38 sites in six states: California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, 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.