On June 11, 2019, I had the honor of receiving Citizen School’s Trailblazer Award on behalf of the entire Google team at the organization’s WOW!Now breakfast reception. In a way, it feels like coming full circle—my introduction to Citizen Schools occurred eight years ago at a WOW! event. There, I saw the full scope of this organization’s impact reflected in the accomplishments of their students. I remember being blown away by their talent, but simultaneously feeling as though I had been transported to my childhood.
As a child growing up in inner-city Baltimore, I was not unfamiliar with the communities Citizen Schools serves. In a way, stepping into their program at Isaac Newton in Harlem was like stepping into a time machine. One of the reasons I am so passionate about this organization is because I understand the power of caring adults who recognize potential where others don’t.
My middle school did not have a Citizen Schools program, but it did have teachers, guidance counselors, and coaches willing to intervene in my life and help drive my development. Their involvement in my education helped me defy the unfortunate statistics that generally define African-American males—often due to lack of opportunity and challenged public school environments. Citizen Schools aspires to ensure kids like me are not the exception, but the rule.
Now, as an adult, I have had the profound opportunity and fortune to work for a company that shares my passion for educational opportunities. One of the most rewarding aspects of Google’s partnership with Citizen Schools is seeing how our employee volunteers are impacted and inspired by the kids who work with us. In all honesty, I feel that sometimes we learn more from them than they do from us.
For this reason, Google is more dedicated than ever to bridging the achievement and opportunity gap by showing a new generation of students an endless set of possibilities—ones their more privileged peers too often take for granted. From robotics to computer science to ad campaign development, our Citizen Schools apprenticeships induce wide-eyed wonder that is nothing short of extraordinary.
I, along with the rest of the Google team, are incredibly humbled and honored to receive such an award. Citizen Schools, we thank you for your revolutionary work and your continued partnership. We’re grateful to be along for the ride.