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Local students share views on education

Panel emphasizes importance of personal interactions with teachers, mentors for learning

In an effort to shift the discussion on education away from the “ivory tower of academics and policymakers,” Brown student organizations — Brown Refugee Youth Tutoring and Enrichment, Generation Citizen, Rhode Island Urban Debate League and the Providence Student Union — handed the discussion over to the real experts on education in Providence, the students themselves, said Rachel Black ’16, a member of Generation Citizen.

In a panel discussion entitled “In their own words: Providence Public Schools from a Student Perspective,” nine current and former middle school and high school students from Providence public schools addressed an audience of about 150 community members in Salomon 001, discussing a wide range of topics such as their opinions on what makes a great teacher and what they believe is the real impact of organizations that volunteer time with Providence public schools.

The ideal teacher, panelists said, finds out what the students are interested in and applies that in the classroom to get students excited about coursework.

“My history teacher figured out that I liked reading, so we read the autobiography of Malcolm X. It changed my life,” said Garrem Jansezian, E-Cubed Academy High School graduate and current student at the University of Rhode Island.

“You actually have to encourage (the students) and understand their real personal goals and what their dream(s) (are). It makes them more inspired and makes them want to work harder to get to that point,” said middle school student Nduwumwami Francois.

Panelists also stressed the importance of one-on-one relationships between students and teachers, as well as with Brown volunteers. They emphasized that the best teachers are the ones who get to know their students and take the time to ask them about their day or how their lives are shaping up.

“From a student’s point of view, I want to know that the person teaching me is not only my teacher but is also there to support me,” said Sidi Wen of Classical High School.

The panelists also spoke of the role other aspects of their lives play in forming their long-term goals, including their extracurricular activities and Providence itself.

Raycily Castillo of Paul Cuffee High School said, “RIUDL and debate have opened my eyes to countless new ideas and topics. It’s one of the big reasons why I want to go to college.”

“You see decrepit houses and houses with foreclosure signs around Providence, and it makes you want to elevate your family out of that. I’m going to keep doing what I need to do to get my family out of that situation,” Jansezian said.

Panelists expressed that the University’s volunteer organizations have had a large impact on them, adding that their involvement with the organizations brought them a sense of community, extra help with homework and a greater understanding of the resources available to them.

“I feel like I’m a part of something bigger where I get to meet more people, have more resources and get bigger opportunities like being on this panel,” said Yanine Castedo of the Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center.

This is the first time that the volunteer organizations BRYTE, Generation Citizen, Providence Student Union and RIUDL have come together to create an event. Members of the organizations said they hope that the panel will provide a good foundation on which to support each other in their respective endeavors to better the lives of students in the greater Providence community.

“We tend to not work together and instead have more of a competitive mentality,” said RIUDL coordinator Olivia Veira ’17. “It would be good for volunteers to have a community of people who all believe in social justice and who are all doing this emotionally taxing work. This is a good way to start building that community.”

Tia Heywood ’17, who attended the panel, said, “I’d encourage anyone in the Brown community who is interested in making a difference in the world to volunteer. Just a couple of hours a week can mean the world to a student.”


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