Hi everyone! I can’t believe we’re entering the ninth week of the community research fellowship already. I’ve learned so much over the past couple months, but it’s also been flying by!
One of the things that I’ve learned over the last few weeks of working on this project is that the key to changemaking is collaboration. There are many different facets of change required to accomplish a goal. In the case of this project, focusing on educational equity, there are many people needed to be involved: policy makers, educators, teachers, students, to name a few. This is true both in the case of conducting the project, but also in distributing the results of this project.
Right now, I’m in the data collection stage, which currently involves gaining insight from stakeholders in the community about the Justice Scholars Initiative, educational equity, and community engagement efforts. I’ve been working alongside my peers and mentors to organize and conduct interviews with staff from a school that partners with Justice Scholars. My goal in this stage is to continue to hear from educators, students, and administrators that can influence students’ educational experiences.
The goal of my research is to determine ways in which community partners can work effectively with communities and develop relationships with members of the community. Volunteers need to understand the context of a school or community. While the volunteer may come with different life experiences, it is important that they are cognizant of students’ lives and perspectives. Furthermore, it is important that volunteers recognize the mutual benefit that results from community partnerships.
The intended audiences of this research are volunteers and academically oriented organizations. The purpose of this project is to equip volunteers with the knowledge, mindset, and resources to do meaningful and effective work in communities. To communicate with this audience, I intend to create accessible, engaging content that relays critical information regarding community partnership. Prior to this project, I had little experience in the field of education, aside from my own experiences. Thus, I’ve experienced the confusion that can come with trying to understand each aspect of the field of educational equity, and I hope to remove barriers from understanding educational equity and partnership related topics.
While my main goal is communicating the final product to the target audience, reaching audiences beyond volunteers will be important in expanding the ideas I’ve learned. Communicating with individuals outside my field will require explaining why university-community and volunteer-community relationships are critical, as well as the potential consequences that come from damaging these relationships.
Looking ahead to the presentation and distribution of this data, my goal remains to create a volunteer handbook to distribute to future volunteers at Justice Scholars to provide context and guidance for meaningful volunteering. I, along with the rest of my cohort, will be presenting at the Diversity Forum. One of my mentors and I have also discussed expanding this handbook to more broad guidance for community volunteers or workers regarding community engagement.In terms of the continuation of this project, I’d like to dive further into education policy in learning how to advocate for different policy initiatives.
I’m so excited to continue working on this research and to see what the future of this project will look like!
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Yes! I love the discussion about how important it is for volunteers to understand the community they are engaging with – something I took seriously when I managed the pantry!