I took Zapoura’s capstone class during my senior year at PSU in the summer of 2012. As a sociology major who had spent the past few years immersed in theory and abstract methods of viewing the world, it helped me create a praxis for working to improve my community. During my time at Parkrose High School I realized that I wanted to continue working with youth in an education setting, which is why I will be starting a Masters in Teaching program this June.
After my capstone class I began working with elementary aged students as an after school instructor with Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN), a city program that bridges the gap between community and school services for children in the Portland school district.
I have learned a lot about the sociopolitical role schools play in our society, and I have become quite engaged in the movement for education reform. I think often about how we can better serve students of color, poor students, students whose native tongue is not English. I think often about how we can better serve and support families and teachers and schools, how we can get our state and country to invest in schools instead of expanding both the military and prison industrial complex.
The truth of the matter is that volunteering is often difficult—there is no real space in our society for volunteer work. In between working and going to school and taking care of a family, what little free time we have is spent fighting exhaustion. Volunteer anyways. Stay engaged in what is happening in your community.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed. I feel irrelevant in the face of an only widening achievement gap, in the face of constant budget cuts, in the face of teacher layoffs, and irresponsible and reckless decision making on the part of political players (just this week the Chicago Board of Education voted to shut down 50 public schools).
But no one expects you (or me) to single handedly lead a revolution for education reform. We can, however, support the dedicated teachers and students that are already paving the way towards reform. When I feel overwhelmed by the failings of the education system I remind myself that for every failure there is a victory: after months of boycotting and protest by teachers and students and community members against standardized testing, the Seattle school board announced that the tests would now be optional in high schools!!
I’ve learned and benefitted so much from Zapoura’s class, and I’m sure that you all have as well. Stay informed!! Realize that education as an institution exists in a myriad of other institutions (ask yourself important questions: why doesn’t our state invest in schools? What incentive is there in funding prisons?) Support students when they speak up about the closing of their schools. Support students on your campus when they speak up about rising tuition and decreased student services. Support teachers when they strike. Make connections. Keep in contact with your classmates and most importantly with Zapoura! She is an incredible resource for our community.
Congratulations on your upcoming graduation. Don’t forget the teachers, classmates, and family members that made your journey possible. Best of luck and warmest wishes,