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Teachers College, Columbia University



FELLOWS TIMES Service-Learning Yearbook: 2010-2011 in Review

Peace Corps Fellows Times Published by the Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Peace Corps Fellows Program at Teachers College, Columbia University

Notes from the Directors’ Desks from Nicolas Stahelin,

Americorps Professional Corps and Fellows /USA Program 525 W 120th Street, Box 90 Zankel Hall 411 New York, NY 10027 Phone 212-678-4080 Fax 212-678-3153 Email: Nicolas Stahelin, Associate Director Kim Swanson, Assistant Director Steve Arrieta, Program Assistant Kenny Benevides, Program Assistant Emily Taylor, Service-Learning Coordinator 2011-2012 Laura Menchaca-Bishop, ServiceLearning Coordinator 2010-2011 Editor: Nicolas Stahelin Layout Editor: Jean Pai In This Issue Service-Learning Projects by: Nate Wight (Honorary PCF ’03) pg. 4 Aaron Heath Kirkendoll (PCF ’09) pg. 8 Joseph Deschenes (PCF ’09) pg. 10 Alexis Austin (PCF ’09) pg. 12 Amber Bennett (PCF ’09) pg. 16 Devin Ackles, Nathan Simonini, and Taina Torres (PCFs ’09) pg. 19 Adam Lammers (PCF ’09) pg. 22 Laura Berson (PCF ‘03) pg. 24 Special Section, Center-Spread: Images of the Peace Corps 50th & Peace Corps Fellows Program 25th Anniversary Celebration Cover: 25th Anniversary Logo designed by Jean Pai All Service-Learning Photography by Katie delaVaughn (PCF ‘06) Back Cover: Peace Corps Fellows 2010 & 2011 Cohort Photographs Photographs by Francis Lee and Chistopher Westcott


Associate Director

The year 2010-2011, marked in April by a celebration of the Peace Corps Fellows’ 25th and the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversaries, has given us not only reason to reflect on our history but also to consider our directions as we head into an uncertain future. While our nation continues to struggle with economic recovery, teachers, schools, districts and the entire American public education system deliberates and experiments its way through contentious efforts in educational reform. In this context, the commitment to serve in New York City public schools is both as important and as challenging as it has ever been. We applaud the fierce spirit of service with which our new Fellows have taken on this challenge. Even as we adapt and evolve to meet the changing needs of a city and a school district, we remain steadfast in our commitment to some of our deepest pedagogical ideals, including culturally relevant pedagogy, project based learning, and community based education. For the present edition of the Peace Corps Fellows Times we highlight eight service-learning projects that took place during 2010-2011. Our goal was to capture with pictures and words the energy and enthusiasm that powers the work of Peace Corps Fellows in our city schools. Each service-learning project featured in this newsletter has three sections: A project description, a teacher’s reflection, and students’ reflections. The Fellows’ and their students’ narratives offer a true window into the soul of our profession, making evident the use of creativity, flexibility, and team-work while reflecting the willingness to rise up to new challenges through a resilient spirit of innovation. Furthermore, these stories reveal the extent to which Fellows draw from their Peace Corps experience to make education more interesting, the content of classroom instruction more relevant to students’ lives, and the method of instruction more dynamic, interactive, hands-on, and stimulating so as to accommodate students’ various learning styles. The students’ own testimonies, depicting increased confidence and realization of their potential, that they can make a difference and that the world is theirs to take on, offer a glimpse into some of the rich educational benefits of these service-learning projects. These projects represent leaps of faith – bold breaks from that which may be though of as “standard,” yet not in isolation from the standards. This sampling of Fellows’ work - even as a mere slice of everything that they do - gives us courage, motivation, and hope amidst the growing challenges we face in the field of education. For all of us in the Peace Corps Fellows family, our task is to continue learning and collaborating creatively through these challenges. As a program we will continue to facilitate these experiences to nurture a thriving community of practitioners who enrich their students’ lives and perhaps even inspire them to transform the world.

Special thanks to our most esteemed supporters:

Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe, Amity Buxton, Albert Delacorte AmeriCorps, Corporation for National and Community Service

Peace Corp Fellows Times Fall 2011

from Kim Swanson,

Assistant Director

While celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Peace Corps Fellows Program and the fiftieth anniversary of the Peace Corps on April 1, 2011, I realized the broad reach of the Peace Corps Fellows Program network. Seeing previous Fellows and current Fellow, past and present staff, Teachers College faculty and leadership, administrators, mentors, facilitators, and friends of the program all celebrating together in one room, the strengths of this network became overwhelmingly evident. After twenty-five years, the majority of our Fellows are still working to improve the quality of education for students in New York City. Many are still teaching, some have gone on to become administrators or leaders within the Department of Education, and others are working for non-profits or community-based organizations. Some have moved on to other urban school districts or have gone back overseas. Looking around the room, it was clear that everyone still shared the common vision of educational equity for all students. Of course, I valued the camaraderie of the Peace Corps Fellows Program long before the anniversary celebration. I was introduced to both of the schools where I taught by other Peace Corps Fellows and I bet many of you reading this article found your jobs through our network as well. While struggling through my first year as a teacher, it was the other Fellows in my school and those in my cohort who helped me thrive by sharing curriculum, lessons, and most importantly, classroom management strategies. Christmas parties and the annual BBQ have always been informal opportunities to hear what folks, both new and old, were doing in their schools and envision ways to adapt their ideas into my own classroom and school. However, I must admit that after I was teaching for a couple of years, I didn’t take advantage of this network as much as I could have. Focused on my own students, classroom, and school, I didn’t often look beyond my immediate colleagues for advice and support. This has completely shifted the past year working as Assistant Director of the program. I could not do my job now without the support of all of you. Our alumni network plays an integral role in Summer Intensive

Training, monthly seminars, fieldwork placements, service learning, and mentoring. Working closely with both current Peace Corps Fellows and alumni, I am witnessing firsthand the positive effect Fellows are having on their classrooms and their schools. Through site visits with current Fellows, I’m able to see the innovations they’re making with their curriculum and they ways they’ve quickly overcome the challenges that are inevitable as first and second year teachers. After visiting Fellows such as Adam Kelley, who uses stations and systems to help students with poor attendance catch up quickly upon their return to school and Rachel Sharpstein, who chants directions to engage her students’ musical learning styles, I invite them to share these ideas with new Fellows during Summer Intensive Training. I’ve also been able to use our incredible alumni network to connect new teachers with experts in their content areas. We’ve pulled alumni such as Steve Lynch to help with Summer Intensive Training and Tim Blackburn to help with monthly seminars. Laura Berson and her students have spoken to Fellows about the values and benefits of Service Learning. Elmer Myers, now a Network Leader, has helped us find fieldwork placements and Gaylea Prichard-Silvers and Kirsten Larson, current principals, played integral roles in the success of our April 1st, 25-50 Anniversary celebration. And this is just to name a few. While I’m currently in a position that facilitates my connection to this network, I would encourage all current Fellows and alumni to take advantage of this network to its fullest extent. At the program, we’re always happy to facilitate these connections. We’d also like to encourage Fellows and alumni to share ideas, make requests, or simply to reconnect with other Fellows on our Facebook page, where we’ll also be posting events, projects, and accomplishments of Fellows. I also want to take this opportunity to thank the Peace Corps Fellows network, both current Fellows and alumni, as well as friends of the program. Without you, our teacher preparation program wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it is.

Interested in publishing a piece in the next edition of the Peace Corps Fellows Times? Now accepting submissions! Ideas and genres include: Reflections on classroom practice; student work; editorials on educational reform. There will also be a section on personal updates (babies, marriages, promotions, transfers, etc.). And of course, photographs! Stay tuned for more info soon. 3


Peace Corp Fellows Times Fall 2011

Alfred E. Smith Career & Technical Education High School Teacher: Nathaniel Wight (PCF ‘03) Peace Corps Service: Dominican Republic 1999-2001 Now Teaching In: Bronx, New York Subject: High School Science The Green Roof at Smith (GRAS) Rainwater Harvesting – Solar Photovoltaic Service Learning Project gave students a unique experience in service learning, green construction, and environmental literacy. The rainwater harvesting system collects and stores water during rain events and the solar panel powers a water pump in the rain barrels to create higher pressure for irrigation purposes. This project has enhanced students’ understanding of sustainability, and allowed students to make predictions and decisions based on measurement, observations, and calculations. Community service outcomes include recycling water that would otherwise end up in our city sewer systems, generating renewable energy onsite, and providing educational outreach to community organizations and neighborhood schools.


Teacher Reflection by Nathaniel Wight Our Green Roof at Smith (GRAS) Project has been an eye opening and rewarding project for both the students and teachers at AES Career & Technical Education High School. This project provides the means to harness energy from the sun and store rain from rain events, and also an unparalleled example of how these two technologies do not have to be implemented in isolation. We’re using the project as a community example of sustainability. We have invited neighboring schools and community centers to visit our project. My students have had the opportunity to share the environmental and community benefits of this project; specifically, how harvesting water mitigates Combined Sewer Overflow events and how harnessing energy from the sun mitigates our need to draw energy from polluting power plants. This project also provided integration between our content-area classes and Building Trades CTE (plumbing, carpentry, electrical practice and installation, architectural drafting, and Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning classes) – students from all these shops participated in the completion of this rooftop system. This project has brought out the passion in me to teach my students about the interaction between energy and our environment, how to identify environmental problems, and most importantly, how to solve these problems in a sustainable way. This rainwater harvesting – solar photovoltaic project allows our school to teach sustainability through the building trades Career and Technical Education. I’m very excited about seeing students involved in relevant projects like this; after all, the built environment has an increasingly detrimental impact on our natural world, economy, health, and productivity.

Student Reflection by Several of us who were part of a project to build a rainwater harvesting – solar panel system. Our rainwater harvesting system helped us learn different ways to conserve water as it provides rainwater for the plants instead of using city water. It also serves as a class experiment. Since Smith is a trade school, we were able to do hands-on work. We are in different trades, so we were all able to participate in different ways. The architects drew plans for the harvesting system, the plumbing students connected the PVC pipes, the carpentry students built the frame, and the electrical students wired the solar panel. Even though several of us are not in carpentry shop class, we were required to cut wood and use a hammer and nail. These skills compliment our architectural drafting knowledge, and we now know the steps to construct a rainwater harvesting system. We also learned about how solar panels work and how to mount them to a rooftop. This project broadened our understanding of the importance of water conservation. This project helped us understand more fully why conservation of water is important. With this


project we are offsetting the need to use electricity from polluting sources, and saving prolific amounts of energy and water, and minimizing the amount of pollution absorbed by the environment each day. Some memorable moments of success were when we nailed everything together and lifted the whole rainwater harvesting structure up. Participating in this project was a wonderful experience. We feel accomplished that we built something that helps to save water and energy. Nadia Boye, Senior Architectural Drafting Marian Thompson, Senior Automotive Technology Lorraine Pena, Senior Carpentry Marylinn Hernandez, Senior Architectural Drafting GRAS (Green Roof at Smith) Science Club Students Alfred E. Smith Career & Technical Education High School


Peace Corp Fellows Times Fall 2011

International Arts Business School Teacher: Aaron Heath Kirkendoll (PCF ‘09) Peace Corps Service: Mozambique 2006-2008 Now teaching in: Brooklyn, New York Subject: High School Social Studies As a core component of our custommade Contemporary Issues course, high school seniors at International Arts Business School explored an issue of interest to them, researched it, and created a public service announcement to raise awareness on the topic. Research focused on gathering background information on the issue to understand its causes, the current status of the issue, and what should be done to address and resolve the issue. Once students had a more solid understanding of their issue, they created a video to raise awareness about the topic. Students shared their videos on Facebook, You Tube, and in classes at school.

Teacher Reflection by Aaron Heath Kirkendoll In service-learning workshops and in casual discussions with other teachers, I have heard a consistent message about the challenge of facilitating a service-learning project: The two greatest challenges in creating a service-learning project tend to be 1) deciding what to do, and 2) how to keep up the momentum among the students. To address both of these challenges, I did something veteran teachers and mentors alike encourage beginning educators to do: let students own their learning process. Letting go and allowing students to take ownership of their learning is a wise strategy, but not so easily implemented in a system focused on non-differentiated standards and formal assessments, and especially with a teacher who likes to make sure everything is always going smoothly in his classroom.


Yet, letting go is what I did, and the service-learning projects developed rather organically. I shared with students why I think raising awareness is so important and why I created this service-learning elective course. Once I told them what we would be doing—raising awareness about an issue, any issue—the students dove into the project. I realized that some college-level articles were actually accessible for my students if it was about a topic that matched the student’s interests. I realized this when my students asked for more in-depth information about their issues after running into overly simplistic descriptions from high school level materials. Collaborative learning is an important facet of my instruction, but I was amazed at how my students embraced such a large project individually and maintained their own motivation throughout the semester. What was their motivation? Their own interest in the subject they were researching and advocating. I could visibly see these students become independent learners and discover their own interests. It was truly rewarding to see them watch their PSAs upon completion. They had every right to be proud of their hard work. I remember that feeling from Peace Corps: Many times I thought that a task would be too difficult to accomplish, such as starting a community art project without anyone, including myself, having any artistic background. I quickly learned that we are all capable of much more than we think we can do. I am glad I could help my students realize the same truth.

Student Reflection by Vergyna Plummer

Peace Corp Fellows Times Fall 2011

While working on my issue of Economics and Society in Jamaica, I learned a lot not only about Jamaica and the issue. I also learned about other countries that go through similar issues. People like myself should be aware of what can happen to others, because it can or will happen to me. Within this project I will never forget the discussions that were held in class with everyone’s issue and learning that all our issues are about similar themes like diversity, discrimination, poverty, and sustainability. In the beginning, I felt unsure and uncomfortable participating in the class and talking about my topic. I thought about leaving or dropping the class, but instead I gave it a chance. Now I see how important all life is, even if it is far from where I am. This project is unique and very different from any class I have ever taken. The class was mostly hands-on. It grasped my attention and motivated me to want to know and learn more about what is not known, like about a country that people would have never known existed. I saw that issues in one country can affect all others because of globalization, and sometimes things going on in one part of the world can directly impact me. When I actually sit and think about all that has happened since February, I can see that I am capable of helping in many ways to make an impact in major issues that are happening now. I also saw how simply increasing a country’s wealth does not solve all its problems; it involves many countries and social and political change, too. That is why we need organizations to raise awareness and get people’s attention. We have to show that these issues are serious, and other people much like ourselves need help. In my own opinion, I believe if people get a fair chance to see young adults like ourselves raising awareness through PSAs and powerpoint presentations, and have the full attention of individuals from abroad or even locally, it can trigger a motivation within them to want to help. And if young adults have done this and can make a change, so can anyone else.


College Academy Teacher: Joey Deschenes (PCF ‘09) Peace Corps Service: Albania 2006-2008 Now teaching in: Washington Heights, New York Subject: High School English

Teacher Reflection by Joseph Deschenes

Initially, my service-learning project was going to consist of a school assembly where my students could perform their spoken word poetry. Many of the students were excited at the chance to share their poetry from a stage. However, the audience turnout was not good as many of the teachers did not want to take time away from their teaching to watch other students perform. While this was a little disheartening, many of the students still gave the performance their all. This could have easily been the end of the service-learning project, but luckily a couple of other students were willing to take it a step further. I had toyed with the idea of possibly having a few students make an audio recording of their spoken word, but had no idea how to make that happen. Luckily, the Service-Learning Coordinator at the Peace Corps Fellows Program was willing to push me to pursue this ambitious project. The result was that a handful of my students were given the opportunity to participate in a recording session at Dubway Studios in Lower Manhattan. The students who signed up for the studio were very patient and dedicated to the project. Once my students completed the recording, they shared their music with their communities through social media outlets. It was their chance to inform their communities of the hardships they experience on a day-to-day basis while proving that expression through spoken word is a better alternative to giving in to negative influences.

For their service-learning project, Sophomores at College Academy critically discussed the daily hardships they face in their communities, engaging topics such as hate crimes, gang violence, and the juvenile justice system. As part of a larger poetry unit, the students wrote spoken word poems that they later recorded and shared in their communities through various social media outlets with the hope of increasing awareness of the issues and spreading a positive message.


When we first began our poetry unit, I noticed that not only did my students have a lot to say about the hardships they endured in their communities, but they also had a lot of talent. Overall, I was not prepared for how honest and real my students would be when we started this project. As an English teacher, you often hope for your students to share something genuine through their writing and hope that they discover writing’s potential as a positive outlet. When it actually happens, the writing you often receive is overwhelming. Sometimes you find the writing is so powerful that a common classroom bulletin board would not do justice.

Peace Corp Fellows Times Fall 2011

Student Reflection: by Imotep Bey, Roberto Herrera, Javis Perez and Michael Rodriguez We were excited for the opportunity to visit a recording studio, but were more excited at the possibility of actually making a professional recording. Some of us have been lucky enough to have already done recordings before and for others this will be our first time. Mostly, we are looking forward to seeing the final goal of this service learning project being complete. It seems many of our classmates viewed this project as nothing more than just a pipedream, something that sounded fun and exciting, but would never actually happen. As the date of the recording session drew near, we realized that this was really going to happen and that we were going to need to practice and be ready. One thing that made this challenging for us was having to write poetry and flows that actually tell a story or have a message. A few of us are more accustomed to just writing down whatever comes to our heads and being fine with that as long as it rhymes. Also, our teacher said that we could not use profanity which was a big challenge for us. Our teacher said using profanity is just a way to get around expressing what you are really trying to say, so it was challenging to actually communicate our frustrations and feelings in rhyming rather than just four letter words. It has also been difficult having to meet after school because a few of us play sports or have extra classes in the late afternoon. When lots of people are involved, it gets hard to meet. We were determined to be ready though. We prepared for months. We were patient, and were just very anxious to get it done. We were also very excited to have our words recorded on a CD. It was fun showing it off to our friends and families and showing people that even when it doesn’t seem like there is much to do to keep yourself out of trouble, you can always write.


P.S. 89 Cypress Hills Community School Teacher: Alexis Austin (PCF ‘09) Peace Corps Service: Ecuador 2006-2008 Now teaching in: Brooklyn, New York Subject: Elementary Bilingual Education 3rd graders at Cypress Hills Community School participated in an anti-bullying service-learning project throughout the 2010-2011 year. The first goal of this project was for students to better understand the causes of bullying and to better understand the role of the adult, victim, bully, and bystander. The second was to share and facilitate conversations about bullying with younger members of the school community. The third goal was for students to collaboratively create, write, direct, and act in a play that could be used as a teaching tool with others in the school community. As part of the project, students went through a series of steps to research, plan, execute, and ultimately celebrate their project. First, students researched the history and causes of bullying through interviews and internet research. Second, they used this information to write a persuasive letter about bullying to a member of our school community. Then, students were led through a series of dramatic, skit writing, rehearsing, and production workshops. Finally, students presented and discussed with the younger members of the school community.


Peace Corp Fellows Times Fall 2011

Teacher Reflection by Alexis Austin This particular project challenged me to work with a colleague to create a curriculum that served as both a service-learning project as well as a writing unit. We were forced to find methods that would allow our students to work together to reach our goals for the service-learning project as well as the writing unit. As students wrote their scripts in groups from the beginning to the end of the project, we had to create situations to allow them to organize, plan, and write together, which was new for me. I am accustomed to allowing students opportunities to develop writing ideas in pairs, however, I had never launched an entire unit based on group work. I am walking away with increased confidence in students’ ability to rise to a challenge and work together to create a project that has various levels of meaning. In addition, I have learned how to integrate theatre into a literary curriculum. I look forward to using some of the games, techniques, and activities we learned to develop students’ acting skills to further develop their descriptive and narrative writing skills come next year. It was clear that my students gained a level of confidence that I had not seen previously in the year. I had noticed their aptitude to present, act out our read-alouds or improvise but did not realize what utilizing these skills would do for their confidence and self-esteem. Particularly, I recall the students’ first workshop with Sarah Bever, a former theatre teacher that worked as a consultant on the project. Students who I had not seen present very often nor project their voice with confidence surprised me the most. I thought to myself that in addition to the knowledge they are gaining on such an important topic as bullying, and teaching it to the community, the most important thing they may be taking away from this experience is actually the confidence gained through working hard with a group of colleagues on something you have never done before and feeling successful.

Student Reflections “I feel happy. I am excited to do this play in front of people in our school. I’m not afraid to do this in front of the whole school.” “I am growing as a person by learning that bullying is not ok for adults, children, and everyone so just by doing this I have seen a whole lot more about bullying.” “I have learned how to solve problems on my own and I have learned lots of lessons why bullying is bad.”


Peace Corps Fellows 25th Anniversary


Peace Corp Fellows Times Fall 2011

Peace Corps 50th Anniversary

For more photos visit: Photos by Francis Lee & Heather Van Uxem Lewis 15

School for Inquiry and Social Justice Teacher: Amber Bennett (PCF ‘09) Peace Corps Service: Tanzania 2006-2008 Now teaching in: Bronx, NY Subject: Middle School Science In May of 2011, thirteen 6th graders participated in the PhotoVoice service-learning project, examining issues of environmental justice and habitat restoration along the Bronx River. As part of the project they conducted interviews with local experts, learned how to row with the staff of Rocking the Boat in Hunt’s Point, and conducted photographic research of the streets, industry, and parks along the Bronx River. Students watched video interviews of Majora Carter, attended community events through the Bronx River Alliance, and heard about examples of youth action through Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice. Once students completed their research, they developed a multi-media slide show of their findings that they presented to their school and community. By sharing what they learned, the students hope that people in the community will be informed about the problem of pollution in the air and water, and will make life-style changes to lessen pollution.

Teacher Reflection by Amber Bennett I first began investigating the Bronx River last school year as a local application of some of the ecology and environmental conservation concepts I would be teaching to my five classes of 6th graders. While working alongside activists in the South Bronx, I immediately discovered the tremendous legacy of environmental activism that existed within that community. Piece by piece, one connection would lead to the next until my 5 classes were immersed in a network of community voices exposing environmental injustice and calling us to action. The students live in Hunt’s Point and Soundview, which are neighborhoods that line either side of the estuary section of the Bronx River. Although I didn’t fully realize it until we arrived on site, designing a wetland would be the perfect marriage of our science studies throughout the school year – including engineering design, effects of weather, balance in the ecosystem, and human impact. As part of the project they used cameras and questions to investigate new angles on their community, including issues ranging from litter in


the gutter to invasive weeds along the riverbank. Our first community interview involved an environmental artist who was working on a project to restore wetlands and reduce storm water along the banks of the Bronx River. During this interview my students exceeded my expectations, asking many questions and generating insightful connections as student journalists as they were shown the ground that they would be helping to transform. Over time students began to realize that changes occur in the community, not by chance or government mandate, but through the direct involvement and collective action of its members. It is by the engagement of community members alone that the river parks exist and restorations to the wetlands are occurring. As a result, for example, the oyster habitat has cleaner water. The PhotoVoice service-learning project has enabled thirteen 6th-graders to feel compelled to volunteer afterschool and play a part within the larger community’s voice.


Peace Corp Fellows Times Fall 2011

Student Reflections

Bronx Citizens Make a Change by Zene Ashorobi, Isatou Camara, Emily Ronda We interviewed an environmental artist named Lillian Ball who is helping improve the Bronx River. For instance, she is trying to make a wetland. The wetland is helping the Bronx River in many ways. When it rains, water from the streets goes into the sewer. However, the wetland takes all the water through permeable pavement. The permeable pavement is made of recycled bottles. Less water goes in the sewers and a lot of pollution is absorbed by the wetland. The students at MS 337 are helping in the project by planting flowers. Rocking the boat is a group of people from the Bronx helping make a difference in the Bronx River for the animals and humans. They allow people to come and row their boats while the staff teaches you what is happening with trucks and garbage in the neighborhood. One thing they told us was that when the garbage is picked up it will fall in the river, making more trash. Also the trucks have oil that goes in the river that hurts the animals and humans. That is why they take people in the boats, to tell the world. And that’s what we’re doing in PhotoVoice, too.


Our Neighborhood, Our River by Crystal Frager Lisa Feng, and Arislady Martinez The Bronx River is 23 miles long. It flows through southeast New York in the United States. During the 19th and 20th Century the river became polluted. Pollution in the river is a problem in a lot of ways. People throw things on the ground and when it rains it goes into the river. So we went to the river when it rained. There was a lot of garbage in the river. Animals can accidentally eat the garbage and when they die it messes up our food cycle and it might affect us. There are also factories and trucks driving around the South Bronx all day that pollute the air. Bronx environmentalist Majora Carter said the people in the South Bronx are like canaries in a coal mine. The pollution affects our neighborhood first, but it will become a problem for people in other neighborhoods, too.

Peace Corp Fellows Times Fall 2011

Kingsbridge International High School Teachers: Devin Ackles, Nathan Simonini, Taina Torres Peace Corps Service: Kazakhstan 2006-2008, Morocco 2006-2008, & Ukraine 2005-2007 Now teaching in: Bronx, New York Subject: High School English & Social Studies The student body at Kingsbridge International High School is made up of newcomers to the U.S. Students of the ninth and tenth grades here are thus going through a profound transition, not only into high school, but also into a new country. This service-learning project was designed with the overarching goal of creating a guide on how to be a successful student both at Kingsbridge International as well as in the college admissions process. The guide was created by current 9th and 10th graders for future 9th and 10th graders, and will serve as one of the first texts that incoming freshman will study in their English classes next year. A group of about eighteen students and three teachers worked for approximately four months to create “Turning the Page,� a compilation of thoughtful reflections and perspectives about the experiences that the students have had in their journeys of transition. The students were not only expected to become experts on the various topics and areas necessary to write the guide, but were also expected to create maps and graphs, contribute writing, conduct interviews, participate in editing, and take photographs.


Teacher Reflection by Devin Ackles, Nathan Simonini, Taina Torres To a large extent, the challenges presented by this project reflected the scope of its goals. Despite being a collaborative effort between three teachers and twenty highly motivated students, the size of the project still proved rather difficult to manage. Researching, writing, editing and publishing a guide to high school graduation and college acceptance in less than four months tested our collective skills and determination. While our students demonstrated the utmost motivation, their skill levels were taxed by the depth and sheer volume of work. However, out of these challenges we were able to approach our work in new ways not usually available to us in the conventional classroom. We were able to foster the sense of community necessary to complete this project through interactive team-builders. From there, our students began to take responsibility for the project as they stepped up to manage and coordinate various portions of our “how-to” guide. Furthermore, we had to dig deep to find ways to set approachable benchmarks and maintain motivation by celebrating our successes.


In the end, our students’ hard work has shown clear results. Among the most notable are their attitudes towards attending college. It is fair to say that to incoming freshmen, quite literally “fresh” to the United States, the idea of college served as a desired but distant and intangible goal. It is clear now that this goal has been transformed from a dream to an expectation. Their change in attitude is most clearly reflected in their speech. They have slowly replaced “if” to “when,” now posing questions such as “When I go to college, will I be able to live on campus?” Nothing reminds Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of their years serving their communities more than large unwieldy projects with uncertain outcomes. Luckily, the skills we developed as volunteers to bring about a successful outcome in those projects continued to serve us in this one. Chief among these was our ability to remain flexible and anticipate challenges. Although we attempted to set firm timetables in cooperation with our students, reality proved very different from our expectations. As we approached each part, we allowed ourselves and our students the flexibility to invest ourselves in our work and achieve our collective and individual goals.

Student Reflections

Peace Corp Fellows Times Fall 2011

“Project Pathway helped me to work with people from different countries. Everybody had opportunities to share their experiences and ideas in order to make this project a success.”

“Now, I feel so good that we created something amazing that all of us did together. We, as a group, created and completed “Turn the Page” and with that we learned and we are helping the new students at the school. We are very proud.” “Some moments that were memorable for me during this project were when everyone finished the first chapter of the project and we felt so proud and awesome because we accomplished this. Also, I remember all of the different activities and discussions that we had. It made the project feel not only like work but also a series of moments when we could learn and make friends.”


International High School at Prospect Heights Fellow: Adam Lammers (PCF ‘09) Peace Corps Service: Senegal 2006-2008 Now teaching in: Brookyn, New York Subject: High School Science Students at the International High School at Prospect Heights designed and created a website as part of a year-long servicelearning project focused on human impact on the environment in Brooklyn. Before the project began, students spent the trimester learning about the effects of human impact. Students studied the costs and benefits of how humans use and get energy and how these affect the environment in the areas of agriculture, fuel, alternative energy and waste disposal. With each new topic students learned content as well as paragraph writing and cost-benefit decision-making. Students conducted a Community Needs Assessment to find out which topics were important to Brooklyn residents, which topics Brooklyn residents did not know about, and which topics Brooklyn residents wanted to know about. After the topics were chosen, groups of students worked on each topic to develop text outlining costs and benefits, pictures that outlined the costs, benefits and processes used with these human actions, and audio recordings to convey their message. Their website was published in the Spring of 2011.

TEACHER REFLECTION by Adam Lammers Working at a school that has a largely project-based philosophy, this servicelearning project challenged me in new ways. Anytime a teacher designs a project, there are many logistics to keep straight: how to build groups, how to properly scaffold the project to allow multiple entry points, and how to structure the group work. While these are all things that I have practiced, working on this project presented the additional challenges of not really knowing what topics the community and students would choose to be included in our website. Although doing a community needs assessment is something I had done during my Peace Corps service, I found that designing a needs assessment for students to conduct and having students give input on how to build the assessment was a whole new challenge. Having to keep things increasingly general and open for the project meant a lot of planning had to wait until the last minute, if only, to allow for all of the decisions to be made by the students. Although the service-learning project was a challenge, the various components of it showed me new ways to get students to study and review information. The community needs assessment forced the students to explain their work to someone in the community to aid in its completion. Students were talking about the subject without even realizing it and it was beautiful! My English Language Learners have done a lot of speaking for this project and it has really helped with their English abilities. I have always been a strong proponent of using the power of our voices to inform the community about local issues such as deforestation and clean water, whether here in the United States or during my Peace Corps service in Senegal. A project like this one also adds a level of student passion that allows them to discuss ideas in deeper ways. During our Socratic circle discussion, students really got to the big ideas of serving the community and protecting our environment for the greater good. As they take these ideas out into the world, I am confident that they will impart their knowledge.


Peace Corp Fellows Times Fall 2011

STUDENT REFLECTION Student Reflection: Chemi Chemi, Genesis Warren, Moustapha Ndiaye “I’ve learned many things from doing this website project. It was very interesting because we got the chance to help Brooklyn make good environmental decisions while educating ourselves about the things we do that harm our Earth. I feel like I know a lot about good and bad environmental decisions now. It was very surprising to know that every day we do things that cause problems for the environment and ourselves. I believe it will be a great challenge to develop ways to stop hurting our environment because every living thing depends on the environment. As long as we make the change, there will be a change. It’s in our hands to be sustainable and be mindful.” “This project helped me grow as a person in many ways. I learned how to design my own website and how to operate it. There are many things that I can do now that I couldn’t do before. My research skills have improved in good ways. Before, I had trouble finding valuable information about a specific topic in a book, on the internet or in encyclopedias. But now that I’ve researched throughout our website project, I believe I’ve improved a lot, and that it will be a useful skill for future projects in all my classes. I’ve also improved my leadership skills. My group members assigned me to be their facilitator. It gave me an opportunity to stand up, and lead my group to success. I’ve helped each and everyone in my group to complete their work. I believe it’s a skill that will come in handy many times in my life.” “Being part of this project meant a lot to me. All the things that we did to help the community of Brooklyn makes me feel so proud of my school and my teacher because with this project we had the opportunity to share and teach our community about important things that we had learned in school. I am hoping this project will make changes and influence the people in the community to contribute to the environment by making positive actions. It will help me make decisions that will help the environment.”


Brooklyn International High School Teacher: Laura Berson (PCF ‘03) Peace Corps Service: Namibia 1999-2001 Now teaching in: Brooklyn, New York Level: High School Government and Economics In the Fall of 2010, seniors at Brooklyn International High School participated in an anti-bullying unit. Their service project was twofold. First, seniors went to classes and gave workshops to teach others the dangers of stereotyping and bullying. In conjunction, they created awareness posters that they hung in the hallways in places they identified as having the most bullying. Secondly, they took all of the information they learned, and presented it to stakeholders in the NYC Department of Education, to professors from local colleges, and to public officials in order to help them understand the problem and find strategies to fight against bullying in schools. Many other service opportunities arose from these presentations. Students were invited to present their work to the Peace Corps Fellows Program at Teachers College, Columbia University, where they engaged in conversation with new teachers about how they could do a meaningful service-learning project in their own classrooms. Students participated in a web-casted performance at the United Nations, and gave workshops at a school in New Jersey on breaking down stereotypes. Finally, students presented their work at the Social Justice Expo at New York University and were awarded 2nd place.


Teacher Reflection by Laura Berson A few years ago, my colleague and I decided to conduct Action Research about the benefits and challenges of service-learning with immigrant youth. We started by giving our students a survey asking them if they felt they could make change in their communities. We were astounded when only 39% felt that people would listen to them. They explained that their voices didn’t matter because nobody listens to teenagers or immigrants. We quickly realized that not only did we have to give our students the tools to make their opinions heard, but we also needed to prove to them that people would listen. While the implementation of a servicelearning project challenged us in terms of time and logistics, we could not have hoped for greater success. When we asked our students the same question after completing a project, 68% of them felt they could make a difference, and, for the 21% who said they were not sure, it was because they weren’t sure they had the ability, not because they felt nobody would listen to teenagers or immigrants. This shift in thought was very powerful; our students felt that their academic work was applicable to life and that gave us fuel to continue using service-learning as a teaching model in our classrooms. As a matter of fact, we have since adopted the name “Be the Change” for our team of senior students. This year, “Be the Change” students worked on an interdisciplinary servicelearning project to fight bullying. While the project allowed students to spread their message of tolerance, as English Language Learners, it also gave them an opportunity to practice their English with audiences of native English speakers and, through repetition, it allowed them to solidify in their minds the content they learned throughout the unit. Most importantly, when my students were invited to speak at various venues, the adults sent a very clear message to the students: “What you have to say is important.” Students not only have a voice, but when they use it, it resonates! This is empowerment. This is good teaching. This challenges students to push beyond their comfort levels, rewards them with positive attention, and motivates them to continue learning and sharing their knowledge.


Peace Corp Fellows Times Fall 2011

Student Reflection by Ee Teng Low & Kasandra Diaz, 12th Grade

BIHS is a school that unites students from all over the world; students with different languages, cultures, and races. With all of our differences, it seems we have a lot against us, but still we come together and form something amazing. We learn how to love each other and work with people from different cultures without discriminating and judging. It seems that in other high schools, it would be easier for students to get along because they speak the same language and have less diversity of culture and race, but it is totally opposite. From our project, we saw bullying and discrimination happen more often in other schools and this is why our school decided to take the anti-bullying project beyond BIHS, so we could help others learn how to recognize bullying and how to stop it. We did research about bullying and began to realize that even a simple joke can affect students’ lives or lead them to commit suicide and we were motivated to do something about it. We were even more inspired when adults thought that what we were saying was important enough that they took us out from our classroom into Columbia University, the United Nations Conference, and the trip to Shawnee High School in New Jersey to teach others and spread the word. New York City is full of people from different countries, having different cultures and races and so it is very easy for each of us to discriminate or judge each other without knowing. And that is why it was so important to us, coming from different cultures, to be invited to the United Nations to teach over 200 students about how we feel being discriminated against and bullied just because we are immigrants. We were very impressed that students and adults listened to our voices even though we are so different from them. Our piece for the United Nations Conference was about how ugly it is being discriminated against by people that we do not know and how it could cause wars and even death. During the United Nations Conference, the vice principal from one of the high schools realized that what we were saying was important enough for them to invite us to their school, so they could learn from us and break down the wall of stereotypes between immigrants and native speakers. At the beginning, we had our own prejudgments: We thought that the native speakers would be mean to us and look down at us because we are immigrants. However, our thoughts changed when we got there. The students from Shawnee High School were really nice to us and we got along really well. We still communicate via Facebook and we are trying to have them visit us in Brooklyn. This teaches us that we should not stereotype others without knowing them. We learned how to stop the stereotyping by knowing people and communicating with them. It also brought Brooklyn International High School students together because before all of these projects, we did not know each other really well and now there is a group of us who have become best friends. We have inside jokes about our experiences and understand each other better. All of these projects are very different from the classroom activities because we were able to express our feelings, thoughts, and experiences. Also, we are able to tell others what we can do to stop bullying, discrimination, and stereotyping in order for us to have a peaceful world. We made a difference and we don’t always get to do that sitting in a classroom.


We Need Love

Peace Corp Fellows Times Fall 2011

By Richelys Baez I don’t know what’s wrong with the world. They make no sense. Why they do this? Where is the love? They all addicted to the drama, More likely attracted to things that bring trauma. Don’t have love only for your own race. You will leave space to discriminate, To discriminate generates hate. There’s just pain that they gain. Madness is what they demonstrate. They don’t realize because they still don’t understand. Where is the love? Not respecting each other. Where’s the love? They hurting each other. Infecting each others mind. No values of humanity. Where’s the love? The fairness and equality? Spread love instead of hate. Love is what we need to stop all this.


2010 Cohort Back row, from left: Josue Bojorquez (Costa Rica ’07-’09), Michael Simpson (Ghana ’06-’10), Adam Kelley (’08-’10), Linsey Hackett (El Salvador ’08-’10), Adam Johnson (Costa Rica, Guinea ’05-’10), David Lance (Madagascar ’07-’09) Middle row, from left: Sally Briggs (Samoa ’06-‘08), Jennifer McSorley (Guyana ’07-’09), Jennifer Warren (Lesotho ’07’09), Marie Zezula (Morocco ’06-’08), Quinn Riddle (Romania ’06-’08) Front row, from left: Andrea Wilches (Mozambique ’07-’09), Kristen Rush (China ’06-’08), Rachel Sharpstein (Ecuador ’06-’08) Back row, from left: Lindsay Williamson (Cabo Verde ’08-’10), Benjamin Siegel (Vanuatu ’06-’08), Gwen Kehr (Lesotho ’09-’10), Edward Fletcher (Tanzania ’08-’10), Joel Jarosky (Turkmenistan ’08-’10), Anthony Bernardo (Mozambique ’08-’10), Josef Donnelly (Micronesia ’06-’09), Andrew Wallace (Mali ’07-’09), Andrea Kung (Burkina Faso ’07-10), Front row, from left: Elaine Law (Mongolia ’08-’10), Dylan Bosch (Mongolia ’06-’09), Michelle Dragisics (Thailand ’09-’11), Liliana Richter (El Salvador ’07-’09), Sarah Suwalsky (Guatemala ’09-’11), Mary Manouchehri (Philippines ’08-’10), Melissa Glick (Honduras ’08-’10), Cristina Lalli (Tanzania ’08-’09), Javier Gomez (Peru ’07-’09), Daniel Golub (Dominican Republic ’08-’11)

2011 Cohort


Service Learning Yearbook: 2010-2011 in Review