South Charlotte

Event helps at-risk students network, succeed

With the help from area professionals, at-risk children will have an opportunity to learn networking, leadership and academic skills through the fourth annual 6 Degrees of Charlotte event.

Citizen Schools will host the event Feb. 2 for eighth-graders from Eastway and Martin Luther King Jr. middle schools.

"Leadership and networking skills are important skills for anyone to develop, and we are teaching our students to be their own advocates for their education and their futures," said Cassie McIntyre, director of civic engagement for Citizen Schools. "Students learn and have the opportunity to get excited about potential careers that they normally would never get exposed to...Students also realize that they have access to the type of network they need, which then gives them the belief that they can achieve and pursue these careers."

Citizen Schools started in 1995 in Boston and now works in 18 U.S. cities. The organization partners with low-income middle schools to expand the learning day, said McIntyre.

Last year's event, held at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, gave more than 60 children the opportunity to learn about different careers from nearly 160 professionals.

This year's event will be lead by Charlotte Chamber of Commerce President Bob Morgan at the Mint Museum Uptown and is expected to draw more than 200 people.

"This goal is achieved through events like the upcoming 6 Degrees of Separation, as well as throughout the year by student participation in programs like 8th Grade Academy and apprenticeships," McIntyre said.

Eighth Grade Academy is a bridge between middle school and high school. McIntyre said evidence shows students who participate in Citizen Schools are more engaged and successful than their peers - even years after the program.

The Citizen Schools apprenticeship programs involve a Citizen teacher leading students in learning projects for 10 or more weeks.

At the end of the semester, students teach what they learned.

Kiesha Battles of Charlotte, a full-time project manager and part-time yoga teacher, taught an apprenticeship on yoga at last year's 6 Degrees of Charlotte event.

"One student sticks out in particular, and she will always be a great memory for me," said Battles.

"Physically, this student was not the iconic build of a yoga practitioner," she said.

"At the end of the apprenticeship, the student was able to master a yoga posture that she thought she couldn't when she first began."