Schools in low-income areas are often faced with various difficulties in serving their students because of financial restraints, among other things. An organization called Citizen Schools, founded in Boston in 1995, works with middle-school students in low-income neighborhoods to enhance the learning experience.
Working in more than 20 cities coast to coast, Citizen Schools recently teamed up with AOL and award-winning chef, author and food activist Marcus Samuelsson to promote healthy living for children. The Ethiopian born, NY-based chef opened up his new restaurant, Red Rooster Harlem, to a group of 15 middle-school students from Harlem’s Global Tech Prep for a special class on maintaining a balanced diet.
“Citizen Schools partners with middle schools to expand the learning day and brings volunteers into the classroom to teach apprenticeship courses one afternoon a week. This event came about through an apprenticeship being taught by AOL employees. AOL reached out to Marcus Samuelsson. The apprenticeship was titled “Incredible Edibles” and the kids were learning about healthy eating and cooking different types of food,” says Stacey Gilbert, director of public relations, Citizen Schools. “Although there are no more immediate events planned with Marcus Samuelsson, there will be more apprenticeships taught by AOL employees. The “Incredible Edibles” apprenticeship was taught as a pilot this year. Next school year, AOL employees plan to teach it again. Citizen Schools will partner with three schools in Harlem next school year and would love to work with Mr. Samuelsson and Red Rooster again if the opportunity arises,” she says.
Gilbert says the event was a success in many ways. “This community event brought together AOL, Red Rooster and our students in a way that tied together our mutual mission of community education. The event delivered a message of healthy eating and connecting community that is important and meaningful for both students and adults,” she explains. “Through Citizen Schools’ partnership with AOL, the organization has been lucky enough to be involved in a number of events with high-profile individuals including, Marcus Samuelsson, Wyclef Jean, Tim Armstrong and Arianna Huffington. AOL’s support has helped us raise awareness of our mission, which is a huge benefit to our work. For example, the company has helped us develop video from the Marcus Samuelsson event into a PSA that will air in NYC taxi cabs very soon.”
According to Citizen Schools, the majority of students they work with are identified as Latino or African-American. By promoting student achievement, Citizen Schools aims to transform schools. Notes Gilbert, “Working directly with experts from a wide range of fields and professions helps our students connect what they are learning in school with the real world. It helps to spark new interests, and inspires motivation for our students.”