A Lesson from John Lewis and MARCH the Trilogy

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Ayah Mouhktar

 B.A. Media Studies ’18

Ayah is the new social media assistant for the McCarthy Center and worked on the co-sponsored speaker’s event with Congressman John Lewis on the campus of USF on Wednesday, August 17, 2016.

 

John Lewis was not a big part of my life growing up, he was not my idol and truthfully, I did not know who he was outside from what I read online about him.

Now, John Lewis is one of the biggest influences I have in my life, and it only took him one night of speaking for 20 minutes to a crowd of 200 people for me to realize that. I did not know what I was missing before hearing his voice resonate to a crowd of people of all races, gender and socio-economic class.

I walked into the event not knowing what to expect. Would there be a ton of suit and tie high profile people looking for photo ops, or important donors for USF that we had to impress? And to my surprise the first person that greeted me was a 6th grader named Heaven who I mentored while working for Magic Zone, an afterschool program dedicated to aiding students in the community with homework.

Heaven reminded me of someone I wish I was when I was in 6th grade. Growing up in New Jersey I was nervous and anxious for the future and I kept that anxiety with me for a long time, I was afraid to speak in public, I was afraid to have people know how I was feeling and Heaven was the exact opposite. She knew when she wanted to be heard, she articulated her ideas with such force that whoever she was talking to would have to remain silent to fully grasp what she wanted to say. She was hopeful, bright, smart and funny. Every quality I desperately needed when I was growing up.

Heaven was excited to hear and see John Lewis, an opportunity she said was like “meeting a celebrity.” Her joy, the light in her eyes and the excitement in her tone of voice reassured me that the future generation is not a lost cause, they are not phone addicts who are addicted to social media, but they are young, hopeful individuals who are hungry for knowledge and Heaven was the prime example of that.

If I took anything away from the John Lewis event it was not a quote from John Lewis himself, but rather a quote from his co writer, Andrew Aydin.

There was a portion during the event where people in the crowd could write anonymous questions/comments, so I took a notecard, wrote a question I thought would never get answered and handed it back to the program director. Ironically, my question was the first to be answered, “When I was younger I was so afraid of not having my voice heard, and now, being a Black Muslim woman in America I’m just afraid. What do you do to not only conquer your fears but to make sure your voice is heard?”

When prompted with the question he replied with a quote that will resonate with me forever, “Be you as loud as you can. Make everyone know who you are. If they don’t like it, they will get out of the way.”

I will be me – and be as loud as I can, and I will do so knowing that I have the support from Andrew Aydin and John Lewis himself.

 

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Reflection on Tolman

David Donahue Director of the Leo T. McCarthy Center

David Donahue
Director, Leo T. McCarthy Center

As I prepare to teach “Urban School Reform,” an elective in the Masters of Arts in Urban Affairs program, I googled William E. Tolman High School in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the school where I began my teaching career over thirty years ago as a student teacher. 1024px-Pawtucket_HSThe first page of entries included links with titles like, “Pawtucket launches inquiry into student ‘takedown’ at Tolman” and “Students pepper-sprayed, cuffed during Tolman HS protest.” The first three entries on the Wikipedia page for the high school are “Thanksgiving football rivalries,” “dropout rate,” and “security issues.” According to the Wikipedia report, only 54% of the schools first year students go on to graduate, a dropout rate that resulted in the school being labeled a “dropout factory” in a Johns Hopkins study. The security issues section is a depressing catalog of shootings and violence in and around the school. I’m not sure what’s sadder: that the school began requiring photo IDs for all students to improve security or that the photo ID program was eventually dropped for lack of funding. The district is considered the most racially diverse in the state. It’s also one of the poorest. Approximately 70% of the school’s students qualify for free lunch. The photo of Tolman reminded me that even in the 1980s almost all the windows had been replaced by glass bricks, allowing opaque light into classrooms, but leaving no possibility for gazing outside. The online picture of Tolman High School follows a familiar narrative of urban public education: Schools serving mostly poor, mostly students of color, places of violence, places of academic despair.

I know from my experience teaching at Tolman there and my subsequent years working with teachers in districts like Oakland and San Francisco that this is such a biased and incomplete picture of urban schools . What stands out from my experience at Tolman is the brilliance and hard work of students. I remember students from Puerto Rico, Cape Verde, and Cambodia in my 11th grade U.S. history class navigating the English they were still learning to debate whether the city should have a nativity scene in front of City Hall during Christmas, to discuss whether it was fair that only “natural born” citizens could become President of the United States, and to share with each other a “coming to America story” from their own lives or someone in their family. Those who doubt the intelligence of adolescents should have observed that class. This very first teaching experience convinced me about the truth behind a statement that has almost become cliché: All children can learn. Those who say that urban school teachers are lazy and academically mediocre should have met my cooperating teacher, a man with a PhD from Notre Dame who returned to teach at Tolman, the high school he graduated from, because he believed in public education. His dedication, thoughtfulness, and intelligence were inspiring. Sadly, stories of urban school failure focus on the actors — students and teachers — as the problem, rather than the larger political and economic contexts that result in the unequal distribution of resources for education, the segregation of children by race, and the reproduction and legitimization of inequality in our nation. My years of teaching children and working with teachers convince me that children and teachers are not the problem. Larger social inequities are. Meaningful school reform has to be part of larger efforts to eradicate poverty, end racism, and strengthen democracy.

My experience teaching and preparing others to work in urban schools shapes my elective course on urban school reform in the United States. While school reform suffers no shortage of market driven calls to tear schools down in order to rebuild them, I’ve come to understand that creating schools to support meaningful, rigorous, and joyful learning requires listening to a variety of perspectives, including those of teachers and students as well as researchers and policy makers. My experience also teaches me that schools do not stand apart from society but reflect and reproduce it. As part of the course, we will hold a joint class with students from a nearby San Francisco public high school. We will also interact with teachers and administrators in the middle of making city schools work for diverse students to hear voices that are not always reflected in monographs of school reform. We will work with Californians for Justice, an Oakland-based advocacy organization, to document the benefits of social emotional learning so they can make the case for strategies to support students of color, immigrant students, LGBTQ students, and students from low income families in urban schools. My goal is to spend as much time learning in and from real teachers, students, and social justice advocates as from the scholars who can provide us with new lenses to understand urban education.

Far from a place of despair, Tolman remains for me a place of hopefulness, not because it works as it is, but because it’s not impossible to imagine schools that do work for the students who go there. I still believe classrooms are places of joy and possibility, of transformation and growth. That’s why I so look forward to teaching my first class at USF this fall. I can’t wait to work with the students in Urban Affairs to understand why city schools are the way they are, to imagine them as they could be, and to begin working towards more just and equitable education for young people in the Bay Area.

 

7th Annual Western Addition Backpack Giveaway & Health Fair

Devi Zinzuvadia
Director of Engagement | Collective Impact

Engage San Francisco and USF School of Nursing and Health Professions has partnered with Collective Impact to support this event. USF faculty and administrators collaborated with other healthcare providers to provide healthcare education and screenings at this free event.

Mo’MAGIC’s back-to-school celebration is held the first Saturday of every August, and features free backpacks, school supply kits, and books for students ranging from Pre-K to college age. There is also a health and wellness fair; families can count on vision, hearing, dental, and stress tests, and additional check-ups from medical professionals, and gather resources from other community organizations and city agencies. Healthy meals and snacks, games, a bouncy house, a reading corner, and other activities rounded out the day.

More than 1,200 backpacks and kits were distributed on August 6. As is the case every year, families started lining up outside the doors by 7am in order to secure items to get the school year off to a strong start for their children, no doubt due in part to the work of local news outlets sharing information about the day.

It takes many hands to mount a community event of this size, and Mo’MAGIC (a program of Collective Impact) is grateful to have had the chance to collaborate with our long-standing partners at the University of San Francisco. Dr. Wanda Borges again coordinated the presence of two dozen students and supervising faculty from the USF School of Nursing & Health Professions; these volunteers met our families with energy, expertise, and enthusiasm, and were a huge part of the success of the day. The K-2 classroom annex at Ella Hill Hutch was transformed into a multi-specialty clinic space, complete with vision, hearing, and general wellness checks.

All of us at Collective Impact | Mo’MAGIC are grateful for the continued partnership of our colleagues at the Engage SF initiative at University of San Francisco, in service of the children and families of the Western Addition.

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Op-ed:  Media’s Sexual Bondage

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Jena Habeil
McCarthy Fellow in Sacramento ’16

McCarthy Fellows in Sacramento spend 12 weeks in full time internships at Sacramento legislative office and state agencies  that contribute to the California policy-making process. Jena is interning at the California Assembly Arts and Entertainment Committee. The following op-ed is authored by Jena as part of her coursework associated with the fellowship.

It happens so often that I expect it.

I feel probing eyes caressing my body as soon as I’m a step ahead.

Has it always been like this? I guess so. Continue reading

Changing Transportation: My Path from USF to Sacramento

Simonds train photoshoot

Shannon Simonds
Master of Arts in Urban Affairs ’16
Transportation Planner, Caltrans

When I started at Master of Arts in Urban Affairs program at the University of San Francisco I just knew that I was interested in understanding the opportunities to mitigate climate change through urban transportation policies and planning. To be working for the state of California as a transportation planner at Caltrans just two years later as an alumna of the Urban Affairs program is still a little crazy to me; but also very exciting.

As a graduate student, I tailored my classes and research to focus on different aspects of transportation as it relates to the environment and urban spaces—and it worked! I get to work in the field I studied and get to learn something new every day. I currently work on the Rail Planning team developing the 2018 State Rail Plan. I am working to coordinate commuter, regional and intercity trains with freight and local bus routes to create a truly integrated, state-wide system. I like that I get to learn about a new area of transportation for me—rail while bringing in a new perspective that tries to incorporate climate sensitivities and equity into the rail planning processes.

Continue reading

We’re Better Together

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Genesis Regalado
Privett Global Scholars
Cochabamba, Bolivia

Because teamwork makes the dream work. 

Being far from home and integrating yourself into a new culture is challenging and intimidating to say the least. It takes a lot of time and a lot of trust in the process–there’s no one moment when you are completely integrated or completely comfortable. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn about yourself because you’re in an environment in which it is okay to ask a trillion questions and be confused. I’d like to say that my transition has been flawless and brag about how good I am at picking up local lingo, but the truth is that living in Cochabamba has turned me into a confused extranjera who always has to ask for guidance, which is so different from the self-sufficient, U.S. me. I’d also like to say that I’ve done it all on my own, but again the truth is that I’ve had lots of help from my peers, the site team, my host family, friends and kind strangers.

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I work with Movimiento Sonrisa and my job is to go around the pediatric wards of the very run-down Hospital Viedma and play with the children and make them laugh. Loving them is not in my job description but I do it anyway. It’s impossible not to love every single one of them and want to cover them in bubble wrap and store them in my suitcase so they never get hurt again. There’s a certain magic to working with children. The power dynamic is interesting because you know you hold authority over them because you’re older, but they know that they hold a certain power over you because they’re little and sick. They have a way of opening you up and making you vulnerable that allows you to get out of your head and be your true self. I love working with them and I love reflecting on the way I act when I’m with them as opposed to the way I act in other settings. I d0n’t have any pictures with them because I have a real problem with volunteers who take photos with children for show. They aren’t a circus attraction, they’re tiny humans who would rather you interact with them than post about them on your summer blog.20160620_142026

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Read the rest of Genesis’s blog on the Privett Global Scholars blog.