06/27/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Active Citizenship: A New Approach to Volunteering

In my last post, I introduced Citizen You, the movement I've spearheaded to encourage Americans to utilize their professional skills to help others. This new kind of volunteering, which has come to be known as "active citizenship," is a fresh, innovative solution to an old problem: Countless busy Americans would love to help others, but simply don't have the time to figure out the perfect way to be useful. What could be more useful than applying high-level professional expertise -- in banking, law, education, engineering, technology, and other fields -- toward problems faced by those who are less fortunate?

In my upcoming book, Citizen You, and its companion website,, I provide an in-depth look at this transformational movement: the professionals who are getting involved, the talents they're providing, the passions that are driving them, and the people they're helping.

One of these passionate professionals is Chris Schmidt, a program manager at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch in Boston. At his demanding day job, he focuses on global trade and supply chain finance. But in his free time, he's a volunteer mentor with Citizen Schools, a wonderful organization that was founded in 1995 to bring large numbers of caring adults into the nation's schools as mentors. In our interview with him on, Chris talks about why he became a Citizen Teacher, explaining that he learned about Citizen Schools during a lunch session his company organized to outline some volunteering opportunities.

During the Citizen Schools presentation, Chris says,

I remembered how difficult it was at that age to connect the dots, so to speak, between school and the real world, so I wanted to become a Citizen Teacher to help kids understand the business world around them and encourage them to make connections outside of the classroom.

He's been thrilled by the ways he's been able to help:

I try to bring all the experiences and skills that I have accumulated in my professional life into the classroom such as communication, leadership, teamwork, business acumen, and analysis. Citizen Schools has this mantra of the "teach back" where apprentices are expected to absorb what they have learned well enough to be able to teach it back to their teachers, friends,
and families. I have realized that being a member of a business team is not so different from being a Citizen Teacher in the sense that I need to "teach back" what I know and learn everyday to my colleagues and our clients as a coach or advisor rather than as a lecturer.

Please visit to read our entire interview with Chris, and spend some time exploring the rest of the site, too. You'll likely discover the perfect match for your skills and your ideals. By becoming an active citizen, you may just change some lives.

Jonathan Tisch is Co-Chairman of the Board for Loews Corporation and Chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels. His new book,
Citizen You: Doing Your Part to Change the World, will be published on May 4.