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Hope College August 2013 : Page 10

Campus Profile Cultural on the By Chris Lewis ’09 Immersion Led by Nancy Cook, professor of education and director of student teaching, Madeline Kukla, director of national accreditation and specialty programs, and John Yelding, associate professor of secondary education, the students were participating in “Hope Comes to Watts,” a May Term course founded to immerse students in the challenges, needs, and rewards of working with children in a culturally diverse setting. “As Madeline, John, and I developed the course, we were focused on providing students an intensive opportunity to become immersed in an urban school setting, in which they discover their Christian callings and identify issues of social justice,” Professor Cook said. “We also wanted students to have a rudimentary understanding of the issues and conditions brought on by poverty and how they manifest in the school setting.” The Watts Learning Center was founded in 1997 by Sandra and Gene Fisher. Active members of the Reformed Church in America, they initially connected with Hope through the encouragement of Dr. Darell Schregardus ’63, a member of the center’s Board of Directors, who formerly served the college as the director of counseling and assistant dean for health and counseling. Although the May Term is offered through the department of education, the program was designed with multiple majors in mind, and this year’s participants included not only education majors, but communication, psychology and social work majors as well. “As a pre-service teacher in secondary education, I’ve been trying to line up as many pedagogy-related opportunities as possible,” said Josh Roth, a senior English-West Coast education major from Guadalajara, Mexico. “I believed the May Term would allow me to work with students who are often left without opportunities to acquire a decent education, helping to launch me into my teaching career.” “I was born and raised in the inner-city and knew I wanted to work with inner-city children through social work,” said Jackie Herrera, a junior social work major from Berwyn, Ill. “This May Term offered me an opportunity to practice what I have learned at Hope thus far.” Some students job-shadowed teachers and principals, taught as substitute teachers, developed lesson plans, and worked with students in small groups, while others worked in offices, developed websites, edited publication materials, provided IT support, conferred with parents, and participated in after-school programs. “I taught a number of lessons to my sixth grade students,” Roth said. “My education went further than that though, as I also discussed which students needed support and debriefed how lessons went, as I communicated with my mentor teacher.” As time passed, it became clear that the Hope students were giving as well as receiving. “It was particularly pleasurable to watch relationships grow,” Professor Cook said. “Their intentional efforts to build relationships had I n early May, 11 Hope students flew to South Los Angeles to dedicate three weeks of service to the Watts Learning Center, two award-winning charter schools that provide education to approximately 625 K-8 at-risk children. Junior Jackie Herrera affirms a student participating in the center’s after-school program. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Cook) 10 News News From From Hope Hope College College

Cultural Immersion on the West Coast

Chris Lewis

<br /> In early May, 11 Hope students flew to South Los Angeles to dedicate three weeks of service to the Watts Learning Center, two award-winning charter schools that provide education to approximately 625 K-8 at-risk children.<br /> <br /> Led by Nancy Cook, professor of education and director of student teaching, Madeline Kukla, director of national accreditation and specialty programs, and John Yelding, associate professor of secondary education, the students were participating in “Hope Comes to Watts,” a May Term course founded to immerse students in the challenges, needs, and rewards of working with children in a culturally diverse setting.<br /> <br /> “As Madeline, John, and I developed the course, we were focused on providing students an intensive opportunity to become immersed in an urban school setting, in which they discover their Christian callings and identify issue s of social justice,” Professor Cook said. “We also wanted students to have a rudimentary understanding of the issues and conditions brought on by poverty and how they manifest in the school setting.”<br /> <br /> The Watts Learning Center was founded in 1997 by Sandra and Gene Fisher. Active members of the Reformed Church in America, they initially connected with Hope through the encouragement of Dr. Darell Schregardus ’63, a member of the center’s Board of Directors, who formerly served the college as the director of counseling and assistant dean for health and counseling.<br /> <br /> Although the May Term is offered through the department of education, the program was designed with multiple majors in mind, and this year’s participants included not only education major s, but communication, psychology and social work majors as well.<br /> <br /> “As a pre-service teacher in secondary education, I’ve been trying to line up as many pedagogy-related opportunities as possible,” said Josh Roth, a senior English-education major from Guadalajara, Mexico. “I believed the May Term would allow me to work with students who are often left without opportunities to acquire a decent education, helping to launch me into my teaching career.”<br /> <br /> “I was born and raised in the inner-city and knew I wanted to work with inner-city children through social work,” said Jackie Herrera, a junior social work major from Berwyn, Ill. “This May Term offered me an opportunity to practice what I have learned at Hope thus far.”<br /> <br /> Some students job-shadowed teachers and principals, taught as substitute teachers, developed lesson plans, and worked with students in small groups, while others worked in offices, developed websites, edited publication materials, provided IT support, conferred with parents, and participated in after-school programs.<br /> <br /> “I taught a number of lessons to my sixth grade students,” Roth said. “My education went further than that though, as I also dis cussed which students needed support and debriefed how lessons went, as I communicated with my mentor teacher.”<br /> <br /> As time passed, it became clear that the Hope students were giving as well as receiving.<br /> <br /> “It was particularly pleasurable to watch relationships grow,” Professor Cook said. “Their intentional efforts to build relationships had tangible payoffs, even in the short time we were at Watts, as students’ parents even commented on the impact Hope students had on their children.”<br /> <br /> Meaningful relationships also developed amongst Hope students and Watts teachers and staff, as students offered suggestions for teaching and learning, from learning stations for middle school math students, to game formats that addressed divergent learning objectives.<br /> <br /> “A number of Watts students thrived with the individualized attention that Hope students provided, as they presented unique, engaging lessons that ‘hooked’ students into learning new content,” Professor Cook said.<br /> <br /> The Hope students also learned how to communicate with students as they encountered adversity, both within and outside of the classroom, from financial issues to family illnesses and untimely deaths. Such situations taught students how to react and support children in all types of instances, so that they can enjoy a comfortable learning environment in spite of whichever personal issues they are facing.<br /> <br /> For some students, these encounters were far different than any other circumstances they had witnessed before. For others, the introduction to differences continued outside of Watts as well, as students also took time to visit nearby areas like Little Tokyo, El Pueblo, and Hollywood.<br /> <br /> “The May Term was clearly inner-city and highly diverse, as it exposed students to cultural experiences most had never had before,” Professor Yelding said.<br /> <br /> This cultural immersion profoundly affected many students, as they saw the effects of students’ poverty firsthand, as well as the wide array of cultural, social, and economic backgrounds that are evident throughout Los Angeles.<br /> <br /> “All students entered the May Term experience with a heart for issues of social justice and a desire to work with individuals from diverse backgrounds,” Professor Cook said. “Each left the experience feeling affirmed in their previous choices, with a greater respect for diversity and individual right s.”<br /> <br /> “I now realize what I want to do after college, as working with younger children in an inner-city environment is very rewarding,” Herrera said.<br /> <br /> Although some students, like Herrera, confirmed their interest in teaching or working in settings similar to Watts, others were affected by the intense personal relationships they developed with Watts students. And, of course, all students left California with a deeper understanding the possibilities and challenges that inner-city school professionals witness every day.<br /> <br /> “This experience strongly confirmed my calling to be an educator. I saw the overwhelming need for not only good teachers, but also good administrators and staff,” Roth said. “Schools are the training grounds for good citizens and, if we don’t invest deeply in our students, none of our problems in society will get smaller.”<br /> <br /> Looking back, the Hope faculty and staff, along with Watts’ founders, are pleased by the impact that the May Term had on students.<br /> <br /> “It’s something we think our students can build on for the rest of their lives,” Professor Yelding said. “This term really influenced some students’ sense of career choices and calling.”<br /> <br /> “Hope students learned firsthand the importance and reality of the cultural life of inner city families in large urban communities — and how this reality changes educational practices to meet the demand,” Sandra Fisher said. “Real human bonding between culturally different communities took place, as they found more alike than differences in their humanness.”<br /> <br /> As a result, “Hope Comes to Watts” appears to have been the beginning of a long-standing relationship between the college and the Watts Learning Center.<br /> <br /> “Our plan is t o continue our relationship with Hope, as both schools benefitted greatly from the first year program,” Fisher said. “We hope the relationship will be more like a marriage than a courtship.”<br /> <br /> “All students entered the May Term experience with a heart for issues of social justice and a desire to work with individuals from diverse backgrounds. Each left the experience feeling affirmed in their previous choices, with a greater respect for diversity and individual rights.”<br /> — Nancy Cook, professor of education and director of student teaching

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