I’ve been working with Jules E. Mastbaum Vocational School, a public school in the Kensington area. Students have expressed a deep interest and concern over several social issues, most notably gun violence and drug use, both of which affect safety around the school area. Students and teachers describe an environment around the school that isn’t conductive to learning or supporting students in pursuing their future, as they deal with larger social issues that affect them in adverse ways.
Because of this, I’ve spent the last two weeks working on finding community organizations to work with the school. I’ve been focusing on organizations that address gun violence, supporting youth, and community green spaces. These are all areas of interest that students have expressed to their teachers. I’ve done this by researching organizations in the area, and casting a wide net so that any area of interest could be furthered through partnership. Organizations in the community are helpful because they may be more likely to have the time and resources to devote to working with the school, as well as creating a strong partnership to support the greater community. Ms. McLaughlin was able to suggest one organization that may be helpful for us, so I’m looking into previous work they’ve done and doing outreach to them.
Unfortunately, due to covid cases at the school, I’ve been unable to make an in person visit to speak directly with students. But, with teachers and students in person, my teacher team has been able to discuss topics with students briefly during their class time. I have been able to briefly talk with students during Saturday meetings, and hope to interact with them more directly. We have also worked on putting together a survey to be administered to the teachers’ classes who will be involved in the project. This survey will focus on gauging student interest, levels of involvement, and overall aims to understand what students are interested in and how much they feel they are able to commit to working on a project. Previously, students expressed a strong focus and concern on gun violence, the issue is present around the school and prevents students from being able to focus on even their daily school activities. Because students are so interested in gun violence, it’s important to incorporate this interest into the project. Helping students build connections between the EFS project and gun violence in their community may help them stay interested and invested in pursuing the project.