By immersing students in another culture to volunteer for positive social change, they will be better prepared to look critically at their own community and work to make it a better place. We are seeking to provide our students with the opportunity to do just that.
Global service-learning provides students with an opportunity to learn while working on a meaningful volunteer project that addresses an authentic community need in a foreign country. We have chosen the Galapagos Islands as our destination because in the same way that there is a need to protect the native biodiversity and encourage residents to promote sustainable agriculture practices in Galapagos, our city of Newburgh is struggling to address numerous social and economic inequalities while encouraging community members to work towards positive social change in the city. While these factors pose challenges, the diversity of our student body is an asset for Newburgh and a valuable resource for innovation. Global to Local will help our students rethink citizenship, rethink equity and fairness, and rethink the way we work together to build our future. We are strategically poised to build a purposeful community in Newburgh: one that is forward-thinking, innovative and designed to become increasingly self-sustainable with each generation.
At Excelsior Academy, our students are part of a six year P-Tech program in partnership with IBM, during which they receive both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. Global to Local will have yearly requirements for participation and build towards a community-based service-learning project in Newburgh during students’ senior year of high school.
As part of the planning stage, the two founding teachers from Global to Local, are traveling to Ecuador and Galapagos this summer on a Fund for Teachers grant. We will participate in a volunteer experience with Ubelong, an international volunteer and learning organization with whom we will partner to set up future student volunteer experiences. We have also implemented several volunteer projects with the ninth and tenth grade students; they have volunteered as hosts during yearly Hour of Code events, as support staff for the Special Olympics, as visitors to veterans in a local VA hospital, as coordinators for community cleanups, and as fundraisers and participants in a walk for our local Habitat for Humanity chapter, to name a few.
The following essential components of Global to Local will ensure that our program is recursive, reflective and purposeful:
Global Service Learning Experience: For the 2016-17 school year, students will continue to work locally as volunteers, while they strengthen their applications to complete their service learning project in Galapagos. Once students are selected, the first yearly trip to Galapagos with students will take place during the summer of 2017. Twenty to thirty students will participate. During the 2017-18 school year, those students will reflect on their experiences in Galapagos and share them with their classmates. They will serve as team leaders as they work in groups to collaboratively plan and initiate Excelsior Community Impact Projects in our city of Newburgh. Subsequent classes of students will follow the same trajectory.
Excelsior Community Impact Projects: These projects will draw on students’ authentic interests, in conjunction with community needs as revealed during student meetings with local organizations. Each group will have a project leader who has volunteered abroad and a mentor from Mount Saint Mary College’s teacher preparation program. Projects might include anything from planting a community garden to helping supermarkets prevent food waste by partnering with a homeless shelter. Projects may be proposed by businesses or nonprofit organizations looking for ways to solve real challenges such as a local salon looking to reduce water waste throughout the day, or an animal shelter looking to maximize efficiency by re-designing the way they house stray cats. Support will be provided for students who want to apply for grant funding for their project. These projects by upper-classmen will serve as a visible outcome for younger students. The experience of completing a Community Impact Project will shift the ways in which Excelsior students view and interact with our city and the world.
All of these Global to Local design elements are created to scaffold student progress and leadership development. With support from within and beyond our school walls, students will be better prepared to look critically at their city and work to effect positive change in Newburgh.