Community-Based Learning

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CBL Fellows Projects 2012-2013

Nov 06, 2012 by Lauren Quirici


The 2012-2013 chapter of the Community-Based Learning program is well underway!  Thirty-five of our students are working hard out in the real world on Fellows projects.   Following are the Fellows and the projects that they have taken on this year:

Caitlin Kidder:  Mosier Elementary School Salmon Egg Rearing

Every year, fourth-graders at Mosier Elementary School in South Hadley rear salmon eggs and release the hatched fish into the Connecticut River.  Caitlin Kidder is currently working on the project with students.  Using knowledge from her studies, she even wades through campus lakes to collect specimens for a classroom terrarium!  Caitlin’s work includes developing a curriculum that will be available for use by any teacher who decides to bring the egg-rearing experience to the classroom in the years to come.  Along with scientific learning, the program aims to instill in the students a love, respect, and desire to care for their surrounding environment.

 Mahdiya Ahmed and Uzma Hussain:  Partnerships with the Somali Community of Springfield

The Somali Partnerships program began with the tutoring of six children of a Somali refugee family.  The program has since expanded to accommodate a larger portion of the Somali community in Springfield, welcoming both children as well as adult participants who are eager to learn.  The program hosts three-hour workshops every Sunday at a Springfield community center, offering lessons in math and English as well as other educational activities.

Mahdiya and Uzma have determinedly tackled many unexpected issues that have arisen in regard to their mission, including helping with transportation of the families to the center, devising methods to keep the youngsters engaged for three hours of tutoring at a time, and working around the families’ different schedules.  Their diligent efforts are improving the opportunities available for the Somali community of Springfield every day, as well as helping to connect Somali and Ethiopian refugees to their Springfield community. 

Sarah Bond: Holyoke Office of Planning and Development

Sarah acts as an intern at the Holyoke Office of Planning and Development, and is working on researching and developing surveys.

Samantha Campagna and Michelle Espinosa: Run the World, Girls!  Mentoring and College Access Program, Holyoke

Samantha and Michelle, creators of the Run the World, Girls! Program, want to encourage and motivate young girls to discover their inner strength, to learn to build lasting and close friendships, and especially to bring to them the awareness that they can do anything they want with their lives.  The program hopes to increase the number of girls who attend school through college, as well as to widen the scope of possibility that students are able to see in their lives.  Samantha and Michele take their statuses as role models as an honor and a privilege, and are using their positions to better the lives of the girls however they can.

Gwendolyn Coiley: Discovery Center Partnership with South Hadley Schools

Gwendolyn is working on developing a mentoring program in which Mount Holyoke College students help with the after-school programs at Smith Middle School, such as art, cooking, homework clubs and more. The partnership has just recently been kicked off, and Gwendolyn will be actively recruiting volunteers next semester in order to expand the program. So far, it has been a very rewarding experience for Gwendolyn and other MHC students, as well as for the middle school.

 Zendy Deleon and Anika Gearhart: Homework House, Holyoke

Homework House provides Holyoke students from grades K-8 with a free tutoring service that helps them not only to focus on literacy and completion of homework assignments, but also gives them a safe environment in which they can feel accepted, form relationships with people who genuinely care about them, and really let themselves shine.  The tutors at Homework House come from all different backgrounds and educational institutions to work together in teaching and supporting students, devising ways to raise money for the institution, and working closely with the kids to increase the educational opportunities that are available to them.

Mila Devenport:  Philosophy 240 Philosophy for Children at the MLK Charter School

Mila is enrolled in Philosophy 240, a community-based learning class created by Tom Wartenberg, Professor of Philosophy at Mount Holyoke College.  In the class, Mila and other students learn how to go about approaching philosophical ways of thinking with elementary school children.  Once a week, the class travels to the Martin Luther King Charter School in Springfield to work in 45-minute sessions with kids, reading books and doing projects that present philosophical ideas and encourage kids to think for themselves and discuss their ideas.   

Anna Sophia Fyfield: Safe Passage, Northampton

The mission of Safe Passage is to educate, empower, and provide resources for victims of domestic violence.   The objective is to teach the victims to take back their own lives and reestablish their abilities to make independent choices regarding their own safety and that of their children.  As an intern in the Development Office at Safe Passage, Anna Sophia aids the staff in working toward this mission. 

More info:

Julia Herman and Ariel Lantz, South Hadley School Writing Center

Julia and Ariel founded the South Hadley High School Writing Center during their sophomore year at Mount Holyoke College.  Their belief is that having access to peer mentoring and a writing center is an excellent way for high school students to hone their communication skills and prepare for college-level writing. 

The mission of the writing center is to enable students to communicate effectively, to encourage youth leadership and action within the South Hadley community, and to create a bridge between high school and higher education. Together, the two coordinate the daily running of the writing center, publicize and outreach through workshops, and teach a peer mentoring course to high school juniors.

Abigail Hernandez, Connections Program at Morgan Elementary

CONNECTIONS is an after-school program offered to students in grades 2-5 at several Full Service Community Schools in the area

 In working with the CONNECTIONS after-school program at Morgan, Abby aims to help strengthen relationships between the school, the children, their families, and Mount Holyoke College.  Abby works with the kids at Morgan on a project of her creation called Art for Empowerment.  understand how deep my love is for the community I am working with. After working with the program for some time, Abby is now focusing on making her work not only about the art, but the community. Ideally, her work at Morgan will encourage and enable more students from Mount Holyoke and other colleges to work with the children and families at the school.

More info: 

Elizabeth Kaplan and Azra Karabegovic, Connections Program at Peck School

At the Peck Full Service Community School, Elizabeth and Azra work through the CONNECTIONS After-School program (see above link) to develop a tutoring environment in which tutors get to know students individually.  The belief is that having the kids at Peck develop close relationships with their MHC tutors will give them a mentor relationship with an adult who they can genuinely relate to.   A primary focus of the program is to make the kids aware of the availability of( and excited about!) the possibility of going to college in the future.  The MHC tutors become better communicators through working with students at varied levels of learning, and the Peck students are provided with a fun environment where they can genuinely connect with positive role models.

CHOICES:  Joselyn Urena, Peck Middle School CHOICES program, Holyoke

CHOICES is an after-school program similar to CONNECTIONS, but exists for middle-school students. Previously a tutor working hands-on with students, Joselyn and her peers have moved up into more organizational roles within the program, now working both capacities as recruiters and planners as well as mentors.   As a recruiter, Joselyn looks for passionate college students to work at Peck on raising the kids’ awareness of their college options and inspiring them to excel in their schoolwork.  Although Joselyn can see that planning is a significant part of helping students, she and her peers have realized how important that those close connections and relationships with the students are, and have taken on the additional task of encouraging those in higher positions to fully engage in the community in order to keep in close touch with who they are truly working for.

Nikita Mitchell, Kelly Full Service Community School

Nikita is working at the Kelly School to teach students how to become leaders through obtaining further political education and a deeper understanding of oppression.  She is currently working on facilitating this goal through engaging activities such as college trips, sport clubs, and cultural awareness days.   In addition, Nikita is considering different ways in which organizations on the MHC campus (La Unidad, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, APAU etc.) may be incorporated and prove useful to the realization of her objective.

Marcella Jayne, Springfield No One Leaves

 Marcella fights foreclosure, gentrification and displacement through community organizing and post-foreclosure eviction defense.

Julianna Lord, Gardening the Community, Springfield

Julianna works with Gardening the Community, a non-profit grassroots food justice organization that is working to make healthy food more accessible to more people.  Through their work in urban agriculture, sustainable living, and youth development, Julia works with Gardening the Community to help make Springfield a healthier, more equitable community.

More info:   

Stephanie Maitre, South Hadley Youth Commission

Stephanie’s vision for her partnership with the South Hadley Youth Commission is to bridge the gap and create a lasting bond between South Hadley High School, Mount Holyoke College, and most importantly, the youth of South Hadley.  Stephanie works to encourage students in South Hadley to think about college, academics, and social justice issues on a deeper level, and helps to connect the kids with the resources to do so through Mount Holyoke’ partnership with the school. 

More info:

Shani Mensing and Sam Tulimat, Holyoke Boys and Girls Club (HBGC)

Shani and Sam work with the HGBC, whose mission statement is “to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens.”  The HBGC aims to engage youth with technology in fun and productive ways. Throughout the next year, the HBGC is planning to develop a media lab and other technological resources/workshops to be available after school to the town’s youth. Shani and Sam will be using their experience with putting together comprehensive technological resources to help with the development plans of the HBGC.

More info:

Scarlett Montenegro, Massachusetts Justice Project

With the Massachusetts Justice Project (MJP), Scarlett assists attorneys in providing legal advice regarding a variety of issues, such as landlord and tenant issues, divorce and custody cases, debt collection and bankruptcy, and the termination or denial government benefits such as welfare or veterans’ benefits.  She also advocates for and works with families who are being denied Emergency Assistance through the Department of Housing Community Development.

Rebecca Neubardt, La Linda Manita, Holyoke Health Center

Rebecca assists in weekly workshops for teen parents and overall program evaluation process.

Nate Pehl and Mary Webster, Peck Elementary School/Mount Holyoke Athletics

The Peck School Athletic Program began as an opportunity for college student athletes to get involved in local community service initiatives.   Today, the afterschool program stands for much more. Weekly, collegiate student athletes arrive at Peck with the opportunity to provide students with structured physical activities, games, and introduce many children to the idea of college.

This year, Nate and Mary are working to restructure the goals of the program to foster learning between communities.  Their goal for Peck students is for each child to be able to articulate at least one positive aspect of their own capabilities.  The growth objectives for Mount Holyoke students are that they acquire a broadened perspective of poverty, and exposure to a new and diverse community.

Jessica Ramirez, Multi-Cultural Community Services (MCS), Holyoke

Jessica’s goals regarding her project is first to integrate herself into the MCS organization, and subsequently to offer her knowledge and skills to become acquainted with its workers in order to facilitate her understanding of how the organization operates in relation to the Holyoke community. Once established, she will help with written translation of documents while acquiring new skills such as editing in both Spanish and English, working with computer programs, and delivering quality spoken translations.

More info:

Jenna Ruddock, Marigold Fund/Afghanistan and Hadley

Jenna works with the Marigold Fund, a humanitarian aid mission invested in the recovery and development of Afghanistan.

More info:   

Mariyah Sabir, Valley Opportunity Council (VOC), Chicopee

Mariyah is working as a partner with the VOC to recruit reliable and organized volunteers to tutor adult learners who aspire to become role models, seek better jobs, and to improve their lifestyles.

More info:  

Julissa Zaragoza, Crocker Farm Elementary, Amherst

Julissa is in the process of forming a relationship between the Crocker Farm school and La Unidad, a Latina organization at MHC.

Last year, 42.8 percent of the children at the school were low-income and 41% were children of color, 20% being Hispanic. Despite these statistics, there aren't any Latino community organizations in Amherst.  The majority of the children who come from Mexican and Central American ancestry do not have many role models in the schools, and very few in after-school settings.

Julissa’s goal is to bring the Latino/a community together with the school.   Some options being considered are presentations or an after school club based around Latino culture (history, literature, dance, language, cooking, etc.) and offering tutoring to students after school.

Vickiana Tejada, Girls Inc., Holyoke

Vickiana is working with Girls Inc. of Holyoke to help increase the number of girls in the town who are pursuing a college education.  The organization is currently lacking a sufficient number of employees to assist all of the middle-and high school girls who are in need, and Vickiana is first working to address this issue.  Once this issue has been remedied, Vickiana will seek to recruit volunteers from the Five Colleges to help mentor and encourage the girls toward a future that includes education.

More info:  

Ruth Tirado, Spanish 350/WGBY Springfield/Latino Youth Media Initiative

Ruth is enrolled in Spanish 350, a community-based learning course in which students produce digital stories and co-lead media workshops for Springfield community residents.

Prior-year student Sophie Hadingham sums up the mission of Spanish 350 concisely: “The purpose of a program like the Latino Youth Media Institute is to empower young people to claim video as a media form as their own to show a side of their story which is usually monopolized by the mainstream. I think it's incredibly empowering to have a program which promotes video production and storytelling as accessible and not just the domain of elite professionals.”

Each of our fellows began the year with a vision, and are currently working (hard!) to perfect and implement their respective strategies and plans.  Be sure to keep an eye out for further updates! 



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