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Difference Maker

Eric Schwarz and Citizen Schools give inner-city kids a leg up

Citizen Schools helps level the playing field for students who grow up in low-income households by extending and enriching the school day with hands-on projects and citizen mentors.

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After cofounding Citizen Schools with Ned Rimer, he taught his first class at a school in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood, helping 10 middle-schoolers publish their own newspaper. When the paper was ready to print, he rented a van, piled the kids in, and drove across Boston to a printing plant so they could see their newspaper "fly off" a real printing press. "They saw their bylines. They were running around the school" showing their newspaper to friends, he recalls with satisfaction. "They were hooked."

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Today, Citizen Schools has 500 employees and a $30 million budget, funded by school districts, foundations, and generous individuals.

And Schwarz is still at its center. "He's amazing," says Tulaine Montgomery, a former Citizen Schools staff member who is now lead partner at New Profit Inc., a venture philanthropy fund in Cambridge, Mass. "He's the real deal. He's what he appears to be. He's sharp, and he's committed, and he's joyful, too, which is a nice combination." [Editor's note: The original version of this story misidentified Ms. Montgomery.]

Ms. Montgomery worked with Schwarz as Citizen Schools was setting up its first basement office "looking out the window at people's ankles and shoes as they walked past us," she recalls. "We were trying to convince schools to let us in. It was a bold and crazy idea at the time."

Today, the notion of extending the school day has gained nationwide momentum. That's a pleasing thought to Schwarz, who hopes more and more people will add their own twists to the concepts Citizen Schools has pioneered.

"I would like our ideas to become the new normal in American education," he says: Give kids more learning time, access to caring adults, and an opportunity to learn through hands-on projects. "If we do those three things," he says, "we're going to make this a better country and lift up education in a very powerful way."

• For more about the work of Citizen Schools, visit

3 ways to help educate children

UniversalGiving helps people give to and volunteer for top-performing charitable organizations worldwide. Projects are vetted by Universal Giving; 100 percent of each donation goes directly to the listed cause.

Here are three projects, selected by UniversalGiving, that are helping to educate chlidren around the world:

The Shirley Ann Sullivan Educational Foundation provides education to children and youths. Project: Give a child a gift of education.

Plan International USA provides children with educational tools and allows them to get the education they need for a brighter future. Project: Provide classroom essentials for one child.

Develop Africa sends educational books and school supplies to children. Project: Provide books and school supplies to children in Sierra Leone.


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