What have I learned?

About Grassroots Organizations:

Through this presentation, I have learned the importance of having grassroots organizations because of their dedication and investment to the situations that they are trying to improve. Like we have talked about this semester, people know how to solve their own problems best. Creating spaces that validate the experiences of individuals within the community is one of the most valuable gifts you can give a person. When I was reading the “About” section of all of my grassroots organizations, I got a clear sense of why the organization is important to the people involved: they themselves are part of the demographic that they are advocating for. Another important aspect of all of the organization’s mission statements was a dedication to intersectionality and inclusivity: the fact that these organizations recognized the necessity for intersectionality to achieve their goals was amazing to see, and inspiring. 


About Urban Education:

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Albuquerque Public School System. APS is unique in it’s embracing of grassroots organizations and community organizing efforts. Further, it’s nuanced understanding of its many bilingual students’ experiences is an example of how effective problem solving can be when institutions listen to their participants. The fact that it champions its bilingual program is really cool: it is undoubtedly something to be proud of. While there is always more work to be done, APS has set up a program that can grow thanks to the students within its system. This was possible because it looked at its students’ needs and developed a curriculum to accommodate them, as opposed to having a large number of students struggle within a system not designed for them to thrive. Part of its success, also, is the fact that a number of faculty and staff speak the students’ native languages, and purposefully. The understanding built on these relationships makes the school accessible. Relatability and understanding are key within a classroom if students are to thrive. This is especially important for an urban school; thinking back on conversations we have had regarding urban school teachers, quick turnover of young, white teachers do little to help a school or students thrive. Especially contrast with this, APS was refreshing to read about.


My Personal Experience with this Project:

My first language is Gaelic and I went to a bilingual public elementary school: I spoke French. I am also a first generation American and first generation college student, so I was able to relate to a lot of the literature about my topic in ways that I did not anticipate going in. I thought that because I was not an ELL that this research would not touch my realm of understanding, but it did. In a way, it gave me words and statistics for experiences that I did not know that I shared with others. I almost worry that I did not sufficiently describe how cultural, educational, and linguistic differences can impact a child’s education in explicit and nuanced ways: it is something that I have always intrinsically known (but never had the words to express) because of experience and observation.

One of the most powerful and identity shaping tools that I had as a first gen kid was the Irish Cultural Center in the town over from mine: simply having a space dedicated to kids like me and families like mine was liberating. It gave me a strong sense of community and cultural pride, and that made me okay with being different from my friends outside of the center. Because of this experience, I was so happy to read about grassroots organizations that focus on community building and volunteer participation. Nothing can replace having a space to engage with and relate to others like you, especially when at times your experiences seem isolating. Knowing that you have a support system gives you agency to explore because you always know that you have a place to come back to. 

I loved this project, and am excited to see what APS and other ELL focused, bilingual public school programs do next.