Capstone Courses

Each year, I have been lucky enough to teach a set of education-focused, community-based courses (called Capstones) to senior level students at Portland State University.  Please see the following links for more information, and do email me at with any questions or to learn more about this work.  I update this section every term to showcase my current and upcoming term of work (see Spring 2012 and Summer 2012 information below):


UNST 421: Enhancing Youth Literacy: Service in K-12 Settings & UNST 421: Youth Enrichment: The Enhancing Youth Literacy and Youth Enrichment Capstones explore a variety of issues related to educational equity and literacy, including early learning, school desegregation, school funding, standardized testing, curriculum choices, and language and bilingual education, among others.  These courses are designed as partnerships that have included Portland Public Schools, Portland Parks and Recreation Homework Club sites, YEI, Upward Bound, and Portland Youth Builders.  PSU students will participate in a variety of service opportunities, including tutoring and mentoring one-on-one or in small groups.

These are hybrid courses, meaning that in addition to class time, there is an on-line component. Successful completion of background checks is required for participation.  Volunteer hours are arranged by each individual student and vary by placement.  Many placements will have flexibility M-F and within school hours (8:00-3:00) or after school program hours (3:00-6:00).  Please contact Zapoura Newton-Calvert at for more information on this placement.

The course syllabus can be found here: Enhancing Youth Literacy & Youth Enrichment Syllabus (Spring 2012)


1. UNST 421: Enhancing Youth Literacy (a Summer Partnership with Upward Bound): This summer, we will be working as tutors/mentors with the Upward Bound Program on the P.S.U. campus.  We will be part of the summer

session of this college preparatory program offering assistance to
approximately 90 low-income and first generation high school students.
98% of participants ultimately graduate from high school, 95% of
participants enter college after high school graduation, and 80% of
our high school graduates since 200 are still in college or have

  • Capstone students are required to participate in 30 hours of community-based learning/volunteer work during the term.  Up to approximately 10 hours of that work can be dedicated to your final project, which will be off-site research for the Upward Bound program. This research work is flexible and can be done on your own time.
  • You should plan for approximately 4 hours of volunteer time per week with the Upward Bound Program.  This summer program only runs for 5 weeks out of our 8-week term.
  • In the past, students who have volunteered on multiple days for the Upward Bound program have had the greatest impact on student learning and the deepest learning/bonding with students.  If you can volunteer on multiple days, this is highly recommended.
  • You may volunteer for more than 30 hours during the term if you wish.

The course will be taught as a hybrid.  Please contact me at with any questions!  Also check out PSU’s Upward Bound Program here.

2. UNST 421: Summer Youth Enrichment (Bridging the Summer Learning Gap): Since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, the “achievement gap” has been at the forefront of discussions about school equity.  A significant contributor to the achievement gap is the summer learning gap.  According to researchers on the subject, ?Achievement gaps by family socioeconomic status (SES) and race/ethnicity widen more during the summer months than during the school year? (Alexander, Entwisle, and Olson 1).  This is often due to the lack of academic enrichment activities available to students in these demographics.  A recent (2007) study by the Nellie Mae Foundation indicates that building on existing networks, for example the Capstone service learning network, is one of the best ways to support summer learning programs and to close this gap (Miller 28).  “Summer Youth Enrichment: Bridging the Achievement Gap” is designed as a partnership between PSU and various Portland summer programs for youth (partners have included the Portland Parks and Recreation Urban Day Camp and the Portland Schools Foundation 9th Grade Counts Program).  Capstone students in this partnership will work with community partners as tutors, mentors, and leaders within summer educational enrichment settings.  Volunteer hours are arranged by each individual student and vary by placement.  Many placements will have flexibility M-F and within school hours (8:00-3:00) or after school program hours (3:00-6:00).

Please contact Zapoura Newton-Calvert at for more information on this placement. Check out information about the 9th Grade Counts program and the University Park Community Center Urban Day Camp Program.  These are two of our partners for Summer 2012.


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