For my Winter Shadow, I stayed with Ruth Werner and her family. Ruth works from home where she juggles various projects related to her role as an author, artist, and educator, specializing in pathology and massage therapy. I had the fortune of getting to know her and her family, while getting some insight into publishing. Unfortunately, due to some health related concerns I was unable to engage with the opportunity as fully as I would have liked.
I did, nonetheless, have a rewarding experience. Speaking to Ruth about the intricacies of her work helped me realize the various approaches one can have into the field of education, despite my previous misconceptions of its limits. Seeing the way that she interacted with the field and others in it showed me how I might incorporate my own interests, skills, and passions into my educational pursuits without having to sacrifice different aspects of my identity. For example, Ruth talked about how she majored in theater at Reed but that her time here “made it clear I [Ruth] could go into any direction I wanted” stating that she “never felt constrained to follow any particular path” because she was supported by Reed to study anything that made me passionate and to trust that that would work out. And despite theater belonging to an entirely, seemingly disparate realm, she believes that her practice in the area helped her develop skills that were transferable to her role as an educator. Together we spoke at length about the importance and marketability of effective communication, which gave me confidence about moving forward into the world of publishing.
Ruth and I also talked about the significance of having vision, of being imaginative, problem solving, and being open to failure. She gave me some very valuable advice about pursuing publishing, which I’d like to share for others who might be pursuing it as well:
In my first email conversation with Dr. Jeri Janowsky, my winter shadow sponsor, she sent me an article explaining how the education gap between high socioeconomic status (SES) children and low SES children grows in the summer time but stays constant during the school year (Beth M. Miller, 2007). The article explained that this phenomenon is largely a due to the fact that high SES students usually have the opportunity to enroll in enriching summer camps, while low SES students do not.
Saturday Academy aims to bridge this gap by offering classes on Saturdays and over the summer to students of all income levels. This January, I had the opportunity to work for Saturday Academy in Portland for two weeks. I was struck by the non-profit's dedication to a single mission: to level the playing field for all students. As a result, I learned the importance of having a strong mission for non-profits. During a staff meeting I attended while at Saturday Academy, Jeri continuously pushed her staff to share any news they had on their projects, but more importantly, to make sure they understood how everything they were doing fit into the overall mission of Saturday Academy.
Over the course of the two weeks I spent working and learning at Saturday Academy, I also learned how non-profits function successfully. The role of the non-profit is to collect, organize, and distribute the resources of the community in order to accomplish a specific goal. In the case of Saturday Academy, bettering the education of the community’s children. Saturday Academy collects grants and the expertise of community members who instruct their classes, organizes them and provides them with guidance, and then distributes them to the community by way of classes.
Julie and Haley at Julie's office.
Two days ago I arrived at Julie Kirgis’s home overlooking the Puget Sound. Julie is the Dean of Arts and Humanities up at North Seattle College, but she also has a strong background in sociology research. Since I hope to go into education administration or research (I don’t know which yet), hanging out with Julie for a few days seemed like an awesome opportunity.
That first evening, Julie and I made a quiche together in a pie pan whose generous depth resulted in a soupy final product. Tom, Julie’s husband (and a Reedie), recommended that we flip the quiche upside-down in a saucepan and drain off some fluid. Since that made the crust soggy, I suggested we put it back in the oven. After three hours the quiche looked like we’d run it through a centrifuge, so much had it separated into its component parts. This was the most significant hiccup of the entire shadow, but it was the same improvisation and collaboration that marked the rest of the experience. This willingness to make the best out of the resources at hand also makes Julie such a great dean.
Coming away from it all, I want to emulate the way Julie goes above and beyond to inspire a sense of community among her faculty and a sense of trust between them and herself. Of all the administrators “on the dark side” (according to the faculty), Julie’s faculty really seem to believe that she has their best interests at heart—because she does, and she lets them know it. I got to see Julie lead large meetings, meet with all of the North Seattle deans in the “cone of silence,” and support her faculty one-on-one. On one occasion, a faculty member wanted to come in just to vent that she was planning to overload her own class by three students. She wanted to do it because she knows that these students really need the class, but for her this meant extra grading and no extra pay. Julie was the listening ear who acknowledged that no, that’s not fair. But at the same time, as an administrator, Julie balances the budget and makes sure that her division isn’t running classes they can’t afford (classes without enough butts in seats). That means she’s also responsible for cutting classes and trying to get classes as full as possible. She’s often responsible for making unpleasant decisions that mean fewer jobs for teachers and cancelled classes for students. The fact that her faculty still trusts her and comes to her with their frustrations is remarkable.
This past winter (2014), I shadowed Daniela Deyoung, a speech and language pathologist at the Portland Public School Early Childhood Team, for two weeks in January. Dani is mainly in charge of the transition from preschool to kindergarten for children with development delays, so she not only does speech development evaluations, but also communicates with preschool and kindergarten teachers and therapists to help with a smooth transition for children with special needs at school. Dani works with both English and Spanish speaking children. I followed Dani around the city to different meetings with parents and school staff and to observation sessions of children who need evaluations. Thanks to Dani, I also got to observe her colleagues during their evaluation sessions of children who were brought to the Early Childhood Team by parents with concerns of language or general development delay. It was very exciting and fun to learn about the child language development and observe the diverse tasks she and her colleagues perform on a day to day basis. Everyone was very friendly and helpful and was very patient with my questions.
I applied to the externship because I am very interested in languages and would like to learn more about the language development process of children. It was also a great opportunity to explore a completely new field. Dani was very engaged and helpful in the process and I learned a lot about autism and typical and non-typical child development at different age groups. Since Dani works with many children who fall in the autism spectrum, she started sending me articles about autism spectrum before the externship started and familiarized me with the symptoms. She was a great teacher and pointed out the children’s behaviors that might be indicators of autism to me during the observation sessions. She also gave me the opportunity to apply the autistic symptoms I learned by taking observation notes and gave me detailed feedback on them. I learned a great deal about child development from her within two weeks.
One important thing I learned is the importance of child play. Child play is an indicator of children’s social skills, their motor development and their intelligence development in general. Child play should be functional, meaning that children should play the toys the way they are designed to be played, have a story about what they are playing, or use the toys in innovative but still sensible ways. It is a lot of the times an imitation of adults’ activities—like cooking, driving cars, building a house, etc—and sometimes require cooperation with other children. When a child is not playing functionally, but uses a toy to make repetitive movements such as dragging a train in a circle nonstop or staring at car’s wheels spinning, it might be an indicator of autism, but of course the language pathologist has to see other symptoms of autism to qualify the child for special education. It was fascinating for me to learn about the functions and complexity of child play and helped me understand the typical behaviors of children.
This summer, McGill Lawrence Internship Award recipient Francisca Garfia, '17, Anthropology, worked with the portland-based immigrant rights organization CAUSA. Read ahead for her impressions:
As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, the struggle for legalization in the immigrant community has been central to my upbringing; I knew entire families who feared the separation of deportation, I had friends who were unable to attend college due to their legal status. This familiarity with the human side of illegal immigration led me to Causa, Oregon’s leading immigrant rights advocacy group. Causa services the Pacific Northwest immigrant community by educating them on their rights and opportunities for legalization. One way they do this is through community workshops; Causa provides access to legal forms and low cost attorneys since the legalization process is complicated and costly. The majority of my summer internship centered on a workshop, which not only served as a way to support the local immigrant community, but also pledged our solidarity to immigrant communities nationwide.
When I began planning this internship, President Obama had recently announced the expansion of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans). Immigrants across the nation were abuzz with the news; if enacted, millions of undocumented immigrants would be legalized! However, the celebration was short lived as Texas and other states filed a lawsuit that prevented the implementation of the programs. As a result, immigrant advocacy groups that had hoped to help people become “DACAmented,” now had to focus their efforts on convincing the fifth circuit court that DACA was vital to these communities, and that these individuals were Americans despite their lack of documentation.
Kelli Collins '15, McGill Lawrence Internship Award recipient, is teaching summer school to econmically disadvantaged youth through the Portland-based nonprofit Oregon Outreach.
Teaching at McCoy Academy has been fun, challenging, rewarding, and eye opening. I went into this experience hoping to learn how to effectively educate youth who come from difficult, often at-risk backgrounds. I've realized that many of the teachers who devote themselves to this demographic spend decades asking themselves these same questions and learning more every day about the teaching methods that are most and least effective.
Emmanuel Enemchukwu, junior economics major, was a recipient of the Davis Project for Peace award. The following post contains his experiences implementing his project in Nigeria at the Federal Government Academy.
About half a year now separates me from the time I spent at the Federal Government Academy (FGA) Suleja Nigeria. At FGA Suleja, I executed the Davis project for peace with my colleague, Zhe Li. FGA Suleja, Nigeria, was my alma mater, and its contribution to my moral and intellectual development leaves me forever indebted to it. As such, it was with great zeal that I embarked on the project hoping to contribute the most possible in the small but relevant opportunity that I had been afforded.
The Federal Government Academy Suleja is located in one of the most southern regions of Northern Nigeria. Suleja with its beautiful hills is a town in harmony with itself and its surroundings, but this harmony seems fragile in the face of the current ethno-social turmoil perpetrated by Boko-Haram in North-Eastern Nigeria, a region of close proximity. Once in a while, the scourge of the much-reviled Boko-Haram breaks out of its enclosure in North Eastern Nigeria and into the area of Suleja. But beyond this fear of conflict, we saw peace and prosperity in a school that boasts of some of Nigeria’s smartest young minds. We define peace, with regards to the secondary school students, as the existence of social innovation and an infrastructural platform for students to optimize their academic growth potentials in a violence-free environment.
During the scorching summer of 2014, I worked with Mashal Academy, an alternate school for underprivileged children in Neelum Colony, a squatter settlement in Karachi, Pakistan. The initiative is primarily run by high school students from The Lyceum; they spend afternoons and early evenings with primary school level children from the area helping them with Math, English, Urdu (the national language) and basic sciences which are part of the Department of Education endorsed curriculum. Mashal was based in a single room, rented by the high school students where they used to help around 15 children with these subjects.
However, because of the superior quality and consistency of education that the students offered, there was a surge in the number of children wanting to attend Mashal. In light of this, I worked with the students to lease a new space which is much bigger and accommodates 34 children and the activities that the mentors plan for them. The new place has two rooms and a huge veranda allowing the students to be divided into two groups depending on their prior academic learning. Over the summer, we also created lesson plans for new subjects including Music, Arts, Drama and Physical Education while also allotting an hour every week for reading time. Given the pedagogical methods in the schools usually available to the children, these new additions are phenomenal – almost unheard of. We also laid ground for two other programs at Mashal: monthly medical check-ups for the children by a qualified pediatrician and a daily lunch program. Both of these are aimed at incentivizing parents to send their children to school while also providing quality services in area where infrastructure for health and hygiene is almost negligible.
Most importantly, we put in place a sustainable donor model for Mashal over the summer. Since the school was housed in smaller premises earlier, the rent was not a very big issue. However, the new house and the expanded services being offered mean that the operating costs have risen substantially. I guided the students towards finding and approaching donors who would pledge to chip in with the costs on a monthly basis for an entire year before renewing their commitments.
I went to where we are supposed to find society’s worst. What I found were people working to be their best.
I spent five weeks attending class with our outcasts, our pariahs, our unseen. The ones we place in shadow and in darkness, out of view, all the better to construct them as distant abstracts, faceless and certainly heartless causers of violence and tragedy and badness. Criminals. Violators. Undeserving of society, deservedly stripped of rights.
Me being the MC for the closing ceremony of the summer pre-service training.
The past two months have been a whirlwind of events, feelings, and encounters. Quite different from my original imagining of this summer internship, yet equally as fantastic, or even more so.
Originally, the plan was to spend half of my time doing a field research project in rural regions in Taiwan for the organization Teach for Taiwan, and the other half of the time would be spent assisting the organization in finding mentors for Teach for Taiwan's pilot cohort teachers. Well, plans don't always work out, especially independent internship projects like this.
There are over 2,500 miles of coastline in the Kodiak Archipelago, and there are about 3,000-3,500 Kodiak brown bears that call their island namesake home. This means that if all those salmon-stuffed ursas were lined up along the many beaches and bluffs of their Alaskan archipelago each bear would pretty much have its own mile of coast. There are only about 1,300 miles of coastline in the entire west coast of the United States of America, from Bellingham, Washington to San Diego, California, and not nearly that many bears. Think about that one. In July, a team of eight people, myself included, went to Tugidak Island on the southern end of the Kodiak Archipelago and walked a mere 2.5 miles, or one one-thousandth, of Kodiak’s coast, picking up marine debris. Eight to ten THOUSAND pounds of marine debris in three days. Now wrap your head around that number.
What is marine debris? It’s nothing more than a fancy term for trash. Garbage. Waste. Junk. And on top of whatever your word of choice is for human carelessness, you can also be sure to call it totally destructive and 100% preventable. 100% preventable, really? Yes, friends, as powerless as we all have been conditioned to feel by the forces of destruction themselves (albeit while they are disguised as “clever” advertisements and enticing packaging) this is an environmental problem that we can all stop squarely in its tracks.
So what’s the source, you ask, genuinely curious. I recycle (when I can) you say. I don’t live by the ocean and I’ve even adopted a manatee! Well have you ever drunk out of a plastic water bottle? Ever? Even as you gave yourself the excuse that it was only because you left yours at home? Have you ever bought anything that when you turned it over you could feel, in little bumpy letters next to the seam of the plastic, said “MADE IN CHINA,” “MADE IN KOREA,” or “MADE IN TAIWAN”? Have you ever stopped to think about how strange it is for something that originated in a foreign country to have English lettering on it, as clear as day?
Washington Monument, summer 2014
It’s been an amazing last few weeks. I’ve learned and grown more than I would have thought possible in the short time I’ve been here. I’ve come to learn what a tenuous position this college program is in, and to so admire all the people behind the scenes who fight tooth and nail to keep it funded and alive to serve. I have learned that the philosophy I see embodied in the Campus Within Walls administration is one that must be practiced in whatever course my own life takes: To fight for the underserved, and to give without requiring any initial proof to pass a judgment of “worthiness.” There is a need, and they are ensuring it is met. It’s that simple.
Undertaking this project has been scary at times. Not for the reasons one might expect from a project conducted in a prison, but from the experience of being personally challenged. I love going to the prison class, but I will admit, there have certainly been times when I’ve wished I was at home, spending a carefree summer exploring the great Northwest with family and friends. I am very aware of my own expectations for this project. I want it to be great. I want it to do justice to the inmates’ experiences, humanity, and strength. It’s terrifying to think that I might not be successful. Were I not even trying, I wouldn’t have the discomfort I do, because I would not be creating the opportunity to fail. My limits are being tested. This grant has allowed me the chance to translate my lofty words and big dreams into actions. There’s no stopping now. Not only do I have myself to answer to, and those who placed confidence in my abilities by funding me, but I now also feel obligated to all the students and administration at the Campus Within Walls program. These students have lodged themselves irremovably in my heart and in my life. Although their lives and their college experiences are restricted behind fences and razor wire, there is no way that their impact on me will remain contained. Their needs don’t disappear when I do. My experience this summer has placed in me a sense of obligation to continue to work with prison justice and inmate rehabilitation programs. In my original thinking, I believed the PSF award was granting me the opportunity to “complete” my summer project. I am now realizing how limited that perspective was. Rather, what my PSF summer has done is awaken a passion and deep sense of loyalty and lasting obligation to this small, scrappy community college prison program. There is no way I will be able to close the door on this experience, and walk away from the dedicated students and administration. My work with Campus Within Walls is light years away from “complete.”
I glance at myself in the mirror, and anxiously scrutinize my outfit. Long khaki pants and a plain, loose-fitting black shirt. It’s my first day of school, and the dress code is quite strict. No jeans. Nothing too revealing, nothing too form-fitting. No dresses, no skirts. Long pants. Sleeved shirts. No blue tops. The possible ways I could violate the code seem endless.
I glance down. My shoes may be a problem. Only closed toed shoes are allowed, and all I brought with me are sandals and running shoes. I wear the running shoes as they are the pair with the only chance of passing inspection, but they may prove to be too informal.
I grab my bag. It contains my wallet and cell phone, though I know already these items will be staying in the car. I will bring only my photo ID into the school building.
“Do you like it?” I asked, as little Elaine eagerly took the sea lettuce from my outstretched hand and popped it in her mouth. She chewed thoughtfully, opening her mouth so I could see her teeth every time she bit down, fully exploring the odd new texture. Then she swallowed and a serene expression came over her sea-sprayed face: “Miss Leila,” she said, as salt water dripped from her eyelashes, “I just want to stay on this beach forever and eat seaweed.” Elaine hugged herself within her purple rain jacket and turned to look out at the wind-whipped ocean. It was a picture of wildness and beauty, and it made me feel really alive—kind of like the feeling you get in the moment you decide to embrace the rain and just get soaked. I couldn’t have wiped the grin off my face if I wanted to as I turned to look at the other children playing along the beach and picked up a new handful of sea lettuce. I swirled it in the surf to rinse it of sand and walked down towards the little rain-dancing rain-boots with my handful of salt-soaked offerings.
Officially my job title at the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge is “Park Ranger,” which is both a really poor sum-up of my actual position and kind of a misnomer anyways when you work for the Fish and Wildlife Service, with is quite different from state or National Parks. When I describe my job to other people I tell them I am the Youth Conservation Corps crew leader at the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge (KNWR), and that I lead a team of four high school students in projects both in town and out in the field that benefit the Refuge and the Kodiak community and educate the high schoolers about the National Wildlife Refuge system and the many things that KNWR does to fulfill its mission to conserve and protect the Kodiak Brown Bears and their beautiful archipelago habitat. Which is all grand and well, but when I really think about what this summer experience is meaning to me, three words come to mind with which I would describe myself: teacher, learner, explorer.
Over my winter break, I went to visit the Saturday Academy administrative office located on the University of Portland's campus, and it was quite fun! I met some outstanding individuals who work not just for a living, but in order to provide quality academic programs for kids all across Portland and the greater Oregon area. That's the benefit of being a non-profit: you do work that is relevant to your interests, but also participating in a group that makes quite a meaningful impact on the community. During my weeklong visit, I helped staff revise internship descriptions provided by several dozen major companies across Portland, a part of Saturday Academy's Apprenticeships in Science and Engineering (ASE) program. Thinking about how to best incorporate a diversity of high school students regardless of their gender or socioeconomic status is something I have never considered, and was a thoughtful challenge for me. With an interest in Technology and Education, I learned about all the hard work that goes into organizing the hundreds of educational opportunities Saturday Academy provides, and was proud to assist with tasks in the background in order to provide a great experience for the families signed up with Saturday Academy this year.
I participated in a weeklong externship with Saturday Academy, an educational non-profit established in 1983 and based in Portland. Saturday Academy’s mission is to provide supplemental learning opportunities to kids from second grade through high school. Saturday Academy organizes over five hundred classes a year, all taught by experts from the community. Saturday Academy states that their emphasis is on science, technology, engineering and math—but a quick peek at their website shows a vast array of classes in all fields, from writing to engineering to acting. This was information I knew as I headed to my externship on the first day. What I didn’t know was that the entire organization is run by just a handful of people. Just thirteen, to be exact. Over my week at Saturday Academy I observed an efficient, enthusiastic, and creative team working hard to providing learning opportunities to bright young students.
My first task as an extern involved Saturday Academy’s Apprenticeships in Science and Engineering (ASE) program. The ASE program matches up promising high school students with industry mentors. The students spend the summer in labs or in the field, working with their mentors. In January, the industry mentors had just submitted blurbs describing the work their high school-aged interns will be doing this coming summer. In addition to proof-reading these blurbs, I vetted their wording to make sure subtle gender bias wasn’t implicit in the language chosen by the writers. As it turns out, gender bias in job descriptions is a persisting issue and data indicate this wording-bias contributes to women being underrepresented in STEM fields. Saturday Academy is deeply dedicated to providing opportunity to all children, including those historically underrepresented in STEM.
Jeri Janowsky, Saturday Academy’s director, told me that a goal of Saturday Academy is to frame education as something that doesn’t have to end when the school day ends, but rather, to frame education as a dynamic, continuing experience throughout life. I strongly embrace this perspective, and Saturday Academy is embodying the idea that education can take place even after the last school bell rings. My time at Saturday Academy was encouraging and motivational—seeing an organization with such an important message flourishing gives me (otherwise absent) high hopes for the future of education in the U.S.
I participated in an externship with Moira Tofanelli. Moira is a School Psychologist at Creative Sciences School in Portland. She was very accommodating and tailored the experience to my interests. I learned that a School Psychologist spends their time focusing on the kids who are not doing very well in school, either academically or behaviorally, and try to determine if they need special educations services. I was intrigued that this was not an exact science; there are many circumstances making it it unclear what is causing the issues for the child and what steps should be taken to help correct the problem. This was highlighted for me when I did a case study of a sixth grader who was undergoing an evaluation to determine eligibility for special education services. Overall, my externship was a very rewarding and interesting experience.
Last Wednesday morning I hopped on my bike to head to Portland Waldorf School for an externship opportunity allowing me to job shadow Alynn Nelson, a 7th grade teacher. I have felt a calling to become a teacher and knew this externship would be a great chance to explore an alternative approach to education, as well as help me explore different subject and grade levels to possibly teach. After an initial mishap ( I turned west down the Springwater Corridor and biked nearly all the way out to Gresham before realizing that I was supposed to turn east and head towards Milwaukee) I finally arrived at the school eager to learn about the philosophy and unique teaching styles of Waldorf Education.
One of the first things I noticed when I walked in the school was the absences of the color white. Paintings and art projects covered the blue, purple, and yellow walls creating a stimulating mosaic of color. I soon came to learn that the colorful environment wasn’t the only unique thing about Waldorf schools.
Alynn Nelson explained to me that Waldorf schools were started in the 19th century by Rudolf Steiner because he was worried about everyone becoming a monotonous factory worker so he created a new type of school to ensure children had the opportunity to receive a creative, enlightening, and spiritual education. When I entered the classroom, I saw 17 students dedicatedly writing and drawing pictures about Michelangelo. She explained that what the students were working on was another important feature of Waldorf education; students did not use textbooks but rather created beautiful pages, that captured the essence of their lessons, which were later bound into a book that reflected all they had learned that year.
Bailey Boatsman, Class of 2016
Biology Outreach Lead Teacher
Bailey is a volunteer lead teacher with the Biology Outreach program. The Biology Outreach program creates partnerships with local schools to provide science lessons to students who would not otherwise have access. Although not pursuing the sciences in her own academics, Bailey cultivates her love of teaching and evident reverence for all learning by bringing science to local elementary school students. Her thoughtful perspective reminds us not to forget that enthusiasm and true curiosity are all that is needed to reveal the joy and discovery in life’s smallest moments.