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Opening Doors in Education with Citizen Schools

This article originally appeared on Nov. 9, 2017.

As I’ve noted before, a huge amount of life is hard work and taking advantage of opportunity, but there is also amazing serendipity and luck. For me, an incomparable stroke of luck came in the form of a full scholarship to Andover, which allowed me to leave inner city Baltimore at the age of 13; the experience taught me the value of education and helped lay the foundations for my success in adult life. Since then, I’ve tried to pay that good fortune forward, which is one of the reasons why I’ve been such an ardent supporter of Citizen Schools.

Citizen Schools is a nonprofit that partners with middle schools nationwide to help close the gap in education for children living in low-income communities. As the organization’s website points out, children from wealthy backgrounds are able to enjoy 300 hours of learning experiences outside of the classroom each year, and by high-school age, this translates into a deficit of about 6,000 hours of education between upper- and lower-income students. This leaves lower-income students at a tremendous disadvantage in terms of high school completion, college attendance, future job prospects, and even attitudes on self-worth.

With a presence in several states, Citizen Schools recruits thousands of volunteers known as Citizen Teachers from the ranks of business, civic institutions, and everyday communities to offer apprenticeships to low-income students and help them enjoy opportunities that would have been closed to them otherwise. I’ve been grateful to support this critical work, and I also serve as President of the Board of Citizen School’s New York chapter.

Another area where I’ve been fortunate is to have an employer that shares my passions and my community engagement. Google has partnered with Citizen Schools since 2006 when Googlers began serving as Citizen Teachers in California. In the years that have followed, Google has also offered the nonprofit financial support—including a $500,000 grant announced in August, Google has contributed over $4.5 million to Citizen Schools.

This recent investment will help to support a Coding Academy, other STEM offerings and apprenticeships across diverse areas like in Android App Design, Lego Robotics, and Web Design, among others.

“Googlers continue to demonstrate their commitment to these important programs year over year. At we understand that our employees’ dedication to Citizen Schools has a long-lasting and positive impact on students across the country and this grant is a way to ensure that these programs continue and flourish,” said Diane Solinger, Director of Google Engagement in Mountain View.

All students, regardless of their background, deserve equal opportunity to succeed. As I like to think of it, they all deserve to be as lucky as I’ve been, and that’s why I’m proud to work at Google and to support Citizen Schools.

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