Getting an education is a rewarding experience, but for some students, the thought of pursuing higher education does not cross their minds.
Students currently enrolled in an elective General College service learning course taught by professor Amy Lee have been engaged in a project that aims to bring to light the positive aspects of alternative high schools.
The course, Writing Laboratory: Community Service Writing (GC 1423), was a semesterlong partnership between students of General College and students of Plymouth Youth Center at Lyndale Alternative High School in North Minneapolis.
General College students served as mentors and coaches for the students at the center. They attended weekly small-group sessions at the center, and each student had an e-mail pen pal. Students also organized a shadow day for the high school students that took place in March.
“It meant so much to me that the GC students would put so much time and effort into helping us,” said Eddie Carter, a student from the center. “It is such a big deal, because we are from such different sides of the tracks.”
Lee said the format of service-learning courses are for students to learn about their existing attitudes and assumptions, to learn more about their own history and situated experience and to learn how students see one another in the world.
“Traditionally, service-learning courses are seen in a particular light – the student is the server, doer, and actor,” Lee said. “My students are not working for the students. They are working with the students.”
Working together, both groups produced a magazine called Compost.
“The magazine breaks down the stereotypes about General College and alternative high schools,” first-year student Abraham Castro said.
The magazine seeks to educate its readers about the need for educational settings that promote and value diverse voices, perspectives and experiences.
“Compost focused on young peoples’ voices about education today,” Lee said.
Students acquired grant money, private donations and funds from the college to pay for the project.
Plymouth Youth Center coordinator Kathleen Butts said the program is valuable.
“I think this program adds to the University’s peripheral ivory tower and connects them to the realities of the Twin Cities,” she said.
She also said she would like to see future projects between the University and the community. But the University needs to realize the collaborative projects cannot last two weeks or days; they have to be enduring to be successful, she said.
To celebrate the group’s accomplishments, students from the center came to the University on Tuesday. Both groups celebrated the birth of their magazine along with the campus community in the Mississippi Room of Coffman Union.
The event included poetry readings by the center’s students, a dance performance, food and time to relax.
General College Assistant Dean Robert Poch said he was blown away by the beautiful product produced.
“I hope these students take away with them a sense of pride and accomplishment,” he said. “They should be proud when they see their words in print and realize how powerful they are.”
General College teaching specialists Patty Fillipi and Gary Peter, who work with Lee in the writing program in the college, said they were amazed by the students’ work.
Fillipi said she was overwhelmed by listening to students’ experiences.
Peter said he is very interested in how the project came to be because he will be teaching the course next year.
First-year student Becki LittleJohn said she came to General College with the same stereotypes and assumptions others had of the college.
“I have learned through my experience here and this project that not everyone is as privileged as I am,” she said.
First-year students CaPrice Crowe and Mariahma Presley said working in the groups was very challenging at first.
“It was hard getting (the high school students) to open up,” Crowe said. “After they did, we started to have more fun.”
Presley said that it was stressful at first but a great learning experience in the end.
“This is the first year that something like this was done. We were the guinea pigs,” she said.
Crowe said she was very proud of herself, her classmates and the students from the center.