UMASS Amherst’s Office for Civic Engagement and Service Learning (CESL)
Community Partners: Amherst Regional Public Schools and The Literacy Project
1. Amherst Regional Public Schools (ARPS):
The formerly known upper-middle-class enclave of Amherst is now transitioning into a diverse community. This is a result of an increase in the amount of ELL students and a significant rise in poverty. In 2012, reports showed 50% of kindergarten students in the district, identified as being from low-income families. Amherst is equally unique in the aspect that, while over half of the student body is white, the percentage of white students is lower than the state average (Amherst 52%, state 67%), and the Hispanic student population is somewhat higher than the state average (Amherst 19%, state 16%). In addition, the Asian student population is significantly higher than the state average (Amherst 12.5%, state 5.7%) including a sizable Cambodian community. Both the minority and low-income student populations are increasing and the school district is working to address the shifting demographics and the changing needs of its constituency.
History of Partnership between UMASS Amherst’s Office for Civic Engagement and Service Learning (CESL) and Amherst Regional Public Schools (ARPS)
ARPS has long embraced diversity efforts and has maintained a commitment to equity in education. Community members and school officials agree that there remains a great deal of work to be done. The partnership priorities identified between ARPS and CESL range from engagement in social justice, diversity initiatives, working on racial achievement gaps, school improvement, parenting and youth culture. In an effort to address the needs of the community, the 2013 Multicultural Student Achievement Network’s Student(MSAN) Conference will be held in Amherst for 4 days. This national conference will bring together 350 high school students of color who are leaders from within their communities. Finally, ARPS and UMass CESL’s plan is to bring Youth Dialogues into the K-16 Pipeline: College Access & Success work, in Amherst. This is an effort that everyone anticipates will be a core focus of our work in the next 3-5 years, beginning with Academic Year of 2013.
MACC VISTA and Amherst Regional Public Schools
Over the past years, MACC AmeriCorps*VISTAs have been an invaluable asset in helping to initiate and enhance further development of campus-community partnerships. An example of this is the development of a system that integrates new initiatives into the CESL and community partners programming. VISTAs are instrumental in guiding the growth and sustainability of the community relationship. Undergraduates take on a leadership role at a community partner site, by doing this, the program goals, objectives, and activities, are enhanced.
2. The Literacy Project (TLP):
The TLP has a strong commitment to teaching adults to read. Dozens of volunteers work with staff to stretch the limited budget and meet the needs of the students. In its 25th year, TLP holds classes for adults in beginning reading as well as GED preparation at locations throughout the Pioneer Valley. TLP has established classes in Amherst, Greenfield, Orange, Northampton and Ware.
History of Partnership between CESL and The Literacy Project (TLP)
The partnership with The Literacy Project (TLP) allows us to build on work that begun in past years. The VISTA provides service as a tutor and provides support to the TLP. As a VISTA you assist in providing services to adult basic education learners. Services include support with: 1.Reading, Writing and Math; 2. G.E.D. Preparation; 3.Science; 4.Creative writing; 5.History and Current Events; 6.Computers and the Internet; 7.Health and Parenting; 8.Communication and Leadership. By promoting a sense of community among volunteers at The Literacy Project this work increases college access and success for adult education participants.
MACC VISTA and The Literacy Project
Through the Student Advisory Board (SAB) students determine the best methods of community building in the learning space in Amherst. This is being done through informal conversations. Community building methods include in-service trainings, and peer conversation groups.
UMASS Amherst in Partnership with Amherst Regional Public Schools and The Literacy Project