Buffalo State was one of only five schools in the country in fall 2010 to receive a grant to implement a minor in civic urban education from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
Buffalo State had to meet four criteria to receive the grant: belong to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, offer a major in education, be located in an urban area, and provide service learning opportunities. After receiving the grant, Amitra Wall, associate professor of sociology, and Kathy Wood, associate dean of the School of Education, began putting the details of the minor together.
“We want to get our students involved in the community,” Wall said. “Our students will serve as coaches by going into classrooms and working with the youth, who will learn that young people can positively impact their host institution, surrounding community, and society in general.”
Freshmen students have the chance to take part in civic urban education as a part of the Critical Youth Advocacy learning community that Wall and Wood created. The 17 students in this learning community will work with students from School 30 in Buffalo, who will be rallying around the notion of preventing bullying both in and out of school.
The students in the learning community recently had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. “They interacted with policy makers at the Department of Education, listened to Dr. Vanessa Siddle Walker during the Brown Lecture Series, and toured the White House,” Wall said.
After completing the learning community, the students will not only have completed 6 credits but also learned lifelong skills. “Working with people who are diverse and learning how to bring them together is a skill that one can’t learn through a textbook,” she said.
Buffalo State students will work with students in grades five to 12, who will identify a problem, come up with projects to solve it, and talk to someone who has the authority and power to help implement the solution. The youth will learn how they could make an impact on real problems in their school or community while learning the basic concepts of citizenship, democracy, and public work.
Through this project, the Buffalo State students will learn about topics regarding urban schools, community organizing, public education, and poverty in the cities. “They will use the public achievement model and the organizing principle to prepare them to be engaged and involved in the community,” Wall said.
“They’re learning how to present themselves to people in power and how to raise and keep public awareness of an issue,” Wall said. “The students might not get the change that they want, but the fact that they will act is what is key.”