Methma is a Volunteer Representative for Swearer Tutoring and Enrichment in Math and Sciences (STEMS). As a VR, Methma helps plan weekly meetings for the tutors, which are intended to provide Brown tutors with tools to work more effectively, through tutoring skills, knowledge of current education policy, discussions on the role of a tutor in a classroom, or information about the Providence Public School system. She is currently tutoring in a physics class.
Lift Every Voice: Student Empowerment through Debate
Olivia is a sophomore concentrating in Public Health. She is community fellow for the Rhode Island Urban Debate League and debate coach at Paul Cuffee Upper School and Alvarez High School.
“Don’t be salty.”
During one of our last practices of the semester, the teachers I co-coach with at Paul Cuffee Upper School and I decided to ask our students for feedback. We wanted them to create norms for both themselves and for us. The students were quick to chime in and their instructions were clear.
First on the list: don’t be salty.
Salty; a person who is the opposite of sweet. Someone who is cranky, irritable, and generally uninterested and distant.
My students laughed as they wrote this on the board, and I laughed along with them. They jokingly pointed this to one of the teachers and continued with the list, jotting down their opinions.
Last on the list: have faith in us.
Nearly all of the schools within the Rhode Island Urban Debate League (RIUDL, pronounced “riddle”) have less than a 70 percent 4-year graduation rate. Classical High School, a public school just a mile and a half away from Brown, has a 97 percent 4-year graduation rate, the highest in the state. Just a few yards away, Central High School has a 56 percent graduation rate. Further up the street, off of Elmwood Avenue, Alvarez High School’s student body of about 486 sits atop a former Superfund site a place deemed so full of hazardous waste that it is a national priority to clean.
Students from these schools, who are constantly reduced to their low standardized test scores yet consistently denied educational support, are not only completely aware of the faults within their education, but also extremely capable of articulating them when given the opportunity. Some of these students were recently named champions at the RIUDL’s fourth debate tournament of the semester, the Annual Ugly Sweater Bash on December 6th.
The RIUDL’s mission is to empower urban students to expand their minds and project their voices through debate. The nonprofit, which has been operating for 15 years, equips students with the academic skills, leadership abilities, and ambition to succeed in high school and graduate well-prepared for college, employment, and engaged citizenship. The organization sends college students from Rhode Island to work with a teacher at one of 12 schools in the state. About once per month, students from all 12 schools convene to compete against one another.
I joined the RIUDL hoping to share my passion for an activity that I loved in high school: competitive debate. I wanted my students to be able to understand capitalism, debate about the economic value of a policy, and argue about the social implications of political decisions. I stayed because I found that debate means much more to the students: it is a place where they can express themselves, be heard, and challenge social and political norms. I decided to coordinate because I wanted to contribute - even in a small way - to the amplification of student voices rarely heard.
I want my students to know that their voices are important and deserve attention, and that they have the power to make substantive change, despite what some “salty” people may tell them. I want them to know that I do have faith in them.
June 20, 2016
June 13, 2016"I think about opening my mouth to call out goodbye, or to salute her in a traditional sign language farewell. Instead, I stand silently and smile."
Sally Hosokawa is a Community Fellow for Writers’ Group, a Swearer Center Community Program that facilitates creative writing workshops for adults with developmental disabilities. She studies literary translation in the Comparative Literature Department.
May 14, 2016“Club teachers understand us,” she says. “Even though they’re older, they’re not that much older, and so they’re like us and we can identify with them and talk to them about our problems.”
Addy is a volunteer with the Brown Elementary Afterschool Mentoring Program (BEAM), a Swearer Center community partnership that facilitates after-school programing activities and mentorship between Brown volunteers and students at William D’Abate Elementary School in the Olneyville neighborhood.
February 22, 2016
Pia is a junior double-concentrating in Education Studies and Comparative Literature. This is her third year with Writers' Group, a Swearer Center Community Program that offers creative writing workshops for adults with developmental disabilities, and her first year as a Swearer Center Community Fellow.
February 19, 2016I was intrigued by the program, but very intimidated by some of the topics. I’ve never been in the position to talk about gender or sexuality or rape culture.
Tiara came into Brown dead set on studying Neuroscience. After a summer or working with the local Planned Parenthood branch and taking health based classes she realized public health was her real calling. She has been volunteering for the SHAPE (Sexual Health Advocacy through Peer Education) program since sophomore year.
February 16, 2016