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[How I Work] Cultivating the people who close opportunity gaps for kids

Published on: Sep 21, 2018

How I work

National education nonprofit Citizen Schools is committed to helping all children discover and achieve their dreams. Their work equipping young people with the skills, access, and beliefs to succeed in college and career inspired Michelle Carter to make the leap to Boston, relocating from her North Carolina hometown, and help reimagine the learning day in support of students across the country. Today, Carter serves as a Talent Business Partner and has supported staff in all six of the organization’s service regions.

My role, the short version: I primarily oversee employee relations, benefits, performance management, and employee engagement needs for my team.

My role, the long version: I serve as a Human Resources liaison to the NY region, and work closely with the national team at Citizen Schools. I advise staff at all levels, from executive leaders to AmeriCorps service members, in navigating complex interpersonal challenges, improving employee satisfaction, and creating pathways for professional development, internally and externally. I have an incredible opportunity to cultivate staff and integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies that amplify our work.

How I got here: I started as an AmeriCorps service member with Citizen Schools right out of college. I first served at a public middle school in Boston, where I gained my first classroom teaching experience. There, I found my passion for supporting youth and service-oriented work. After that, I worked at Wells Fargo and a few other nonprofits before returning to Citizen Schools, the origin of my nonprofit journey.

What the job requires: It requires grit and resourcefulness to bring novel career opportunities to young people. In my role, I balance perspective, judgment, and boldness to counsel staff at all levels through complex employee relation issues. We think outside of the box to challenge the status quo, and broaden our growth mindset to do our best work.

What keeps me up at night: The limitless opportunities to serve as a change agent driving social justice efforts and fully embracing human differences. I’m energized to bring diverse people together, discover untapped potential, and leverage strengths to create holistic, civic societies. I’m humbled by the unique perspectives and ideals of the people I’ve met and privileged to be a part of a service-minded community.

What puts me on top of the world: I love a new challenge. Working in HR allows me to push myself to think in unique ways: I can reimagine solutions and systemize our work for lasting change. The strategy part of my work allows me to promote alignment across our network and increase efficiency, creating more space for us to focus on young people – the most important “why” behind our work.   


The most fun I’ve had in this role: I love our social outings! We’re creative with the ways we bring our staff together to build rapport, deepen relationships, and celebrate our successes. We gather together for photo scavenger hunts, rope courses, laser tag, beach retreats, and holiday parties! As a remote worker, I love when I’m able to connect with my team in NYC, the Bay Area, or Boston.

Advice I wish I’d gotten sooner: Diverse experiences and a true willingness to learn is more meaningful than traditional educational degrees and accolades. I was privileged to have leaders that believed in my potential and created opportunities for me to take stretch assignments. My managers encouraged me to take my Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification, paid for my study books, and created collaborative learning experiences that helped me to pass the test.

The first thing I do when I get into the office: Clear my inbox! As a remote worker, email and Google Hangout are the most common ways my team contact me for support. It’s a tedious administrative task, but essential for me to prioritize my tasks each day and maintain a high response rate.

My professional goal for the year: I’m aiming to rein in my overambitious nature. I tend to overcommit when I’m passionate about the work I’m doing. At Citizen Schools, every challenge I identify excites me, but I have a lot of competing priorities. I want to ensure every project I take on is the best use of my time, and can make a broader impact on the work we do to support people in marginalized communities.

Citizen Schools equips young people with the skills, access, and beliefs they need to thrive as students and succeed as adults in the modern economy by connecting students with volunteer Citizen Teachers, who lead project-based learning experiences. To learn more, visit their website, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube.