January 01, 2012

Volunteering with Citizen Schools

Cynthia M. Gilbert

“If I could go anywhere in the world, I would go to Switzerland. They have free public health care there, and I’m curious about what other differences I might discover if I could visit them.” I’ll never forget sitting in a law firm cafeteria overrun by 13- to 15-year-olds one September afternoon and how astounded I was to hear this comment from an eighth-grader.

Every September, I begin a yearlong process of getting to know an inner-city eighth-grader, helping him or her develop critical thinking and persuasive writing skills, and establishing a mentoring relationship that can last for years. I’m in my fifth year of volunteering with the Citizen Schools Eighth Grade Academy (8GA), a nationwide network of after-school education programs in which volunteers, supported by professional educators, mentor inner-city eighth-graders and help them attain the skills they need to enter high school, graduate, and succeed in college.

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