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Teacher Lens: Education through Community Activism

This year at Clark Street Community School we implemented a seminar block for students to explore different 'mini-projects' under an umbrella theme to spark richer opportunities for student to dig in. This seminar, aptly named Space for Learning provides a weekly opt-in activity, facilitated by an CSCS instructor, for those students who are looking for guidance and brainstorming around independent project ideas.

This term the Space for Learning Community Activism students have been learning about local social justice activists. A recent opt-in had students connecting with Diane Syzmanski, a local social worker who is very active with the homeless population and who runs outreach programming through Facebook for Veterans, called VetConnect. Diane's presentation and commitment to her work sparked several students who could see a path to make a contribution and to get involved in their community in an authentic and impactful manner.

Meeting Diane spurred several CSCS students to set a course to become activists themselves. Recognizing their enthusiasm, Diane offered an immediate opportunity to our crew of students with a real world hands-on experience; serving lunch and cleaning at The Beacon.

The Beacon is downtown Madison, just off East Washington Avenue. It is a day resource center for the homeless. Clark Street students Apsara, Kat, Megan and Justice all helped serve lunch with Diane and Gloria. It was amazing to see all the people who access this space and were so friendly. Many of the people thanked us for coming down and helping out. It was crazy to think of how hard we worked, and if we hadn’t been there, it would have just been Diane and Gloria doing all of this by themselves. It certainly made us aware of the crisis for volunteers.

Students also met Mike a former Marine who is a social worker and works specifically with Suicide Prevention. He has done drives for homeless vets in the past and helped students figure out a plan of action. He has also provided some resources to help them make their Clark Street project successful.

Activities like these have motivated these students to seek other ways to further help Homeless veterans. This February and March, these students will host Clark Street Cares... Ready, Aim, Fire.

Students are going to be doing multiple different types of writing, public speaking and have studied some statistics and done research not just about homelessness but veterans who are homeless. They actually were able to meet a few as we saw former Army, Navy and Air Force vets at the Beacon for lunch.

These experiences have been an incredible way for students to understand the importance of tying their learning to something of significance in their local community. Their want to be activists, to have a vision for making change, and their commitment to community has been innovative and inspiring. By engaging with community activism and creating a space for young people to act has been very exciting and has totally motivated our students to make a difference for others and the community!

Please help support our students and our community by contributing to the Ready Aim Comfort campaign.


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2429 Clark St, Middleton, WI 53562, USA

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