Through the past few weeks, I have begun to collaborate with the community partner, A+ Schools, and the Justice Scholars Institute staff to discover new routes and topics for research. Over time, we established a new topic that would benefit all groups, that fosters individual interest as well as promotes community goals and values. My research is on the topic of academic support, that can be used to augment the effects of unavoidable student barriers. In learning of chronic absenteeism, internet inequity, and the vast other effects of the Pandemic, I have begun to look at education in a whole new light. The research I have done so far has been with the intention to learn and understand how to create a socially just academic support initiative. The Justice Scholars Institute expressed interest in creating an academic support program, but in promoting and enacting principles of community partnerships, needs the knowledge and understanding in research and literature to do so. A+ schools also expressed the topic of tutoring as one of their ongoing efforts, so we all decided this research would be the most valuable.
Research in the field of education is vital for all schools, but my research is centered around urban schools. In order to better accommodate students in urban school districts, there is a need for ongoing research in order to properly fund and support students and schools. For students of color, systemic practices must be constantly criticized, critiqued, and combatted. The Justice Scholars Institute specifically researches and enacts programs to help provide resources to Black students in Pittsburgh. In joining this effort, the research I am doing is supporting the programs already underway and the potential brainstorming of new programs.
My current goals with this project are to gain experience in social justice research and action. As a business major, I have interacted with many people that are not “within my field” of experience or schooling. However, this is very important for me, as I hope my college experience is unique and multi-faceted. I have gotten to work with faculty within the school of education, and our community partner works within federal funding and lobbying. I have gained so much experience already in my weeks working with the Community Research Fellowship, and this makes me very equipped to communicate and collaborate with people out of my field. In this experience I believe I am growing my field of expertise and experience. As a business major, I first was drawn to this opportunity for my desire to work for organizations that value social justice and/or some form of greater purpose. Through high school, finding fulfilling work that gives back to others was always a major drive of mine. In coming to school, as I wrote in my last post, I began volunteering through the Justice Scholars Institute. Now, for the summer, I have actually begun to work and research. This experience was the start of hopefully many opportunities to work towards a greater purpose. I believe this work has and will be very important to my experiences in post-college life. As a rising sophomore, this is my first position of experience with real work. This project involves problem solving, collaboration, and many other valuable lessons.
In communicating the ongoing research I am working on to a larger audience, there are a few things that must be done. First, in order to properly convey the message, it is important to establish terminology early on. Over these last few weeks, in reviewing literature, terms such as “at-risk” students and other terms which are referred to as “language of poverty” perpetuates a deficit approach mindset. In my work and JSI’s work in general, we use a strengths-based approach. Literature historically in discussing education systems, practices, reform, and so-on use terms that are now seen as detrimental. The process of redefining these terms and presenting in my writing is an ongoing learning process. Also, when creating my second deliverable, I hope to create a public relations project for the Justice Scholars Institute to present to students, and must work on how best to communicate with the community. In communicating with the community I want to present the ideas in an open, honest, and valuable way. In discussing research to the teachers at schools in Pittsburgh that are partnered with the Justice Scholars Institute, I want to highlight the opportunity while recognizing the admirable work already being done.