Citizen Schools coming to Quail Hollow
South Charlotte News
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Thursday, Jul. 24, 2014

Citizen Schools coming to Quail Hollow

    Students show off their new knowledge during the apprenticeship at a recent WOW! event.
    Jake House, executive director of Citizen Schools NC, and Rachael Neill, Quail Hollow Middle School principal, are prepared to start the Citizen Schools program next month with a group of low-income sixth-graders. The program is intended to help boost low-income students’ future academic success.
    A student at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School involved in the Non-Destructive Testing apprenticeship works with different types of testing systems to determine the feasibility of working products. Students use items like infrared glasses and magnets to find imperfections in metals, wood and other products without destroying them.

This fall, Citizen Schools will administer a program for sixth-graders at Quail Hollow Middle School in south Charlotte, the second such program in the Queen City.

“This is not an after-school program,” says N.C. Citizen Schools Executive Director Jake House in describing the effort. “We are a second shift of educators who provide a combination of academics and real-world relevance for the kids.

“Five days a week, when the regular school day is over, the Citizen Schools day kicks in.”

House said the program is an opportunity to level the playing field for all middle school students, no matter what their background.

The national program serves students in seven states, about 5,300 nationwide. More than 500 students are being served in Charlotte and Durham.

Citizen Schools’ first program in Charlotte was started in 2006 at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Hidden Valley.

For this latest effort, “We sent out surveys to find the best matches for our program. We were looking for strong school leaderships and teams, and Quail Hollow was a great fit,” House said.

Rachael Neill, principal of Quail Hollow Middle, said, “One of the things that set Citizen Schools apart was the strong collaboration between them and school faculty.

“The Citizen Schools staff will be in the school five hours prior to the start of their program. During this time, their teachers will collaborate with our teachers and support student learning by tutoring students and assisting in classrooms.”

According to a Citizen Schools publication, the program was founded in 1995 in Boston. Since 2006, student enrollment has increased each year by more than 20 percent.

Citizen Schools teachers work full-time, and many are AmeriCorps National Teaching Fellows. They work in conjunction with volunteers from local businesses to strengthen curriculum concepts and provide hands-on apprenticeships for students.

Local volunteers come from Piedmont Natural Gas, Belk’s, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Davidson College, UNC Charlotte and Central Piedmont Community College. Those volunteers provide the other key component of the program: real-life learning. Many businesses match volunteer hours with funding for the program.

Neill said she entered into the partnership with Citizen Schools to “increase student achievement and ensure all students are challenged to meet their full academic potential.”

Nationally, Citizen Schools reports that sixth-graders in the program are more apt to make successful transitions into high school, enroll in college-track courses, go to college and graduate.

“We give all kids the same opportunity to achieve,” House said. “We want to expose more students to the power of our model and introduce them to success.”

Nancy Thomason is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Nancy? Email her at at

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