In the 1990's, Boston was suffering from an increase in youth crime, sub par public schools and dilapidated neighborhoods. Eric Schwarz wanted to make changes. In 1995, after a "Citizen Teachers" trial program at an interested public school, Schwarz and his co-founder Ned Rimer launched the non-profit called Citizen Schools. The concept was to capitalize on the three opportunities Schwarz saw as possible solutions to the problems in urban Boston: the often-wasted time that kids spend after school, the unsupervised weekends, the pivotal transition from middle school to upper school, and need for professional teachers that could teach kids hands on, life building skills. Under Schwarz's direction, Citizen School quickly blossomed into a valued organization offering after school programs, Saturday workshops, apprenticeships, community education, homework skills, and team-building activities. Citizen Schools served 63 students its first year and now works with middle schools in seven different states, involving 4,400 children with the help of 3,200 volunteers. In 2002, Schwarz was given the A&E Networks Biography Community Hero Award. In 2004 and 2006 he received the Fast Company Social Capitalist Award for outstanding non-profit innovation and results, and in 2005, Schwarz was given the Skoll Foundation's Social Entrepreneur Award. Urban schools thank Eric Scharwz for the progress made in closing the gap between the level of school curriculums and the requirements placed on a young person to succeed in society.
"Math is not just something you need to learn in school," Eric says. "You need it to make a profit, to make architectural drawings work. The result is that the students' writing, presentation, and math skills become relevant and familiar."