The Center for Engaged Academic Learning (CEAL), with funding from the Engelhardt Family, supports U-M undergraduate students who propose projects co-designed with organizational partners that focus on social justice, serve under-resourced communities. Students are awarded the Engelhardt Social Justice Fellowship for eight weeks, during which they continue working at their partner organizations and receive training and support from CEAL to develop their personal and professional goals and deepen their civic impact.
This spring, the Engelhardt Social Justice Fellowship supported six undergraduate students: Xochitl Calix-Ulloa, Anne Canavati, Benjamin Greenberg, Allison Lang, Melissa Shiner, and Cassandra Van Dam. Read on to learn more about their Engelhardt Fellowship experience.
Xochitl Calix-Ulloa graduated this spring with degrees in History and Social Sciences and a minor in Spanish. She has tutored since high school for the Young People’s Project (YPP), an organization that trains high school and college students as math literacy workers (MLWs) to teach elementary-school children at afterschool programs and summer camps. MLWs “improve academic outcomes” and “act to remove institutional and systemic barriers” to their and others’ success. Xochitl used the fellowship to begin preparing for a sustainable, initial, “academic-enrichment” module for the summer of 2017.
Xochitl found CEAL’s workshop on asset-mapping especially valuable in the process of identifying her starting point, community partners to approach, and the right questions to pursue. Additionally, CEAL’s professional development taught her the importance of a clear vision and objectives, and of good skills in dialogue and facilitation.
Anne Canavati majored in International Studies with a focus on Security and Norms, Arabic Language, and Middle Eastern and North African Studies. She also pursued minors in Business Administration and the Program in the Environment. The Engelhardt Fellowship gave Anne two more months to continue her “civic duty” and volunteer as a legal assistant at MIRC, the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. During this time, Anne helped thirty low-income clients, victims of crimes of domestic violence, apply for immigration relief. Moreover, she gave two community presentations, and planned and implemented a naturalization workshop in Grand Rapids. “Immigration makes this country amazing and diverse,” declares Anne. The professional and personal development from CEAL equipped her with tools, skills, and lessons valuable to a new graduate. The self-care workshop was her favorite, since, Anne points out, taking care of oneself in the legal field of social justice and public interest is “critically important.”
Ben Greenberg received his major degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, and minor degree in Music. Driven by a vision to help low-resource communities as well as a passion for music, Ben’s UM student-run organization, Seven Mile Music, collaborated this summer with Mission:City community center to run an eight-week music camp in the Brightmoor neighborhood of Detroit. In its second year, the camp hosts eighty youth who take lessons, play music, and develop relationships with teacher-mentors.
Ben recommends the Engelhardt Fellowship to other students because it supports time and effort to “passion projects” during the summer months. The experience of the fellowship highlighted the significance of “self-advocacy”; Ben learned to “step up,” proactively seeking answers to questions from very busy community members. Ben had worried about his outsider status, but CEAL’s strength-finder workshop helped emphasize his contributions to the camp, the neighborhood community and to Mission:City. Thanks to the Engelhardt Fellowship, the kids are “reaping the benefits” of Ben’s efforts and he “did exactly what I wanted to do this summer.”
Allison Lang, a junior in Fall 2016, is pursuing a B.A. in International Studies, Political Science, and Spanish. Allison’s social-justice project combined equal access to education and help for immigrant and refugee populations in Washtenaw County. As Engelhardt Fellow, Allison tutored English Language Arts (ELA) and math to ESL students in May and June at Ann Arbor’s Scarlett Middle School. She loved going to the school regularly and found students’ enthusiastic welcomes very “rewarding.” Through the almost-daily exposure she realized that many students’ basic learning needs were neither identified nor addressed, and so she designed an interface to inform tutors of students’ individual learning needs, track students’ progress, and provide resources for tutoring sessions. “Continuity,” says Allison, “is particularly valuable to students whose lives have been transient.” CEAL’s training, thanks to the fellowship, expanded the framework and lens she brought to understanding immigrant communities at the school. One workshop, for instance, helped her appreciate her middle-school students’ bilingualism as an example of cultural capital rather than viewing their developing English skills as a barrier to learning.
Melissa Shiner is pursuing a B.A in Psychology and a minor in Entrepreneurship. This spring she was the volunteer coordinator at the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) in Detroit, about whose revitalization she feels “quite passionate.” She held orientations, formed trusting relationships with the interns at the farm, and instituted systemic protocols to facilitate the president’s job. After eight weeks of work at MUFI, Melissa is “much more cognizant of the wrongs of the world and the disadvantages our system has thrust upon the innocent.” She also learned to adjust expectations and to enter situations “open-minded and ready to learn.” CEAL staff mentored her throughout the work, teaching her the value of clear communication, reflection and of setting goals.
Cassandra Van Dam
Cassandra Van Dam received her B.A. in Women’s Studies with a double minor in Community Action Social Change, and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Cassandra spent her fellowship at Ann Arbor’s Neutral Zone, a youth-driven teen center promoting personal growth through artistic expression, community leadership and the exchange of ideas. In the fellowship she learned to identify her personal strengths and areas of growth, and to examine her own assumptions and privilege. CEAL’s staff helped Cassandra to compile resources to facilitate important discussion amongst Neutral Zone’s staff. She also trained Neutral Zone’s staff about gender-pronoun sensitivity and about interventions for drug and alcohol abuse. Cassandra is grateful to the Engelhardt Family Fund for her meaningful hands-on experience at a nonprofit organization working for social justice.
A few tears followed by extreme happiness overcame School of Education senior Xochitl Calix-Ulloa when she found out via text message she was nominated for an MLK Spirit Award. In preparation for the Spirit Awards Ceremony, Calix met with the nominees to discuss her work and explore how it connected with students from across campus.“I’m just honored that I was even nominated. I had the chance to meet with some of the nominees and it was so exciting to be in a room full of people who are passionate about their community and to celebrate all of the values Dr. King celebrated,” said Calix.Each year, faculty and staff nominate undergraduate students from across campus for the MLK Spirit Award for their dedication to furthering the vision of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year, 17 students were nominated from LSA and the Schools of Nursing, Public Policy, Education, Information, Kinesiology and Business. Seven students, including Calix, were awarded the Spirit Award. “It’s not a competition,” said Calix. “It’s about celebrating the community and celebrating people who are taking an active role.” Although the nominations are anonymous, Calix believes her involvement in community-based learning (CBL) on campus contributed to her nomination.As a high school student, Calix became involved in the Young People’s Project (YPP). This program uses project-based learning to develop math literacy of elementary, middle, and high schoolers so they can succeed in and out of the classroom. YPP was founded under the leadership of Omo Moses, son of civil rights leader Robert Moses. Their vision is to improve one of the most valuable tools, math literacy, amongst underprivileged students and to simultaneously guide them in understanding the importance of social justice. As a College Math Literacy Worker, Calix worked with 4th grade to 12th grade students.During her time at the University of Michigan, Calix’s commitment to YPP grew and she began training high school students as Math Literacy Workers in Ypsilanti High School since the beginning of her first year to understand the interactive math module and the importance of mentoring the younger children during outreach.“There were times when I would feel really down or I was not having a good day and I would go there and it would really cheer me up,” said Calix. “Sometimes (the students) did not get along but when we would start working together they would all be interested and engaged. It was such a beautiful thing to see. It is a motivator for me to continue to do this work.”In addition to YPP, Calix has been involved in many different groups across U of M’s campus. She works with PILOT, a program that aims to recruit a diverse collection of undergraduate students and guide them in obtaining their personal and professional ambitions and developing the skills and tools to do so. Since so many members care about education, a major annual project is bringing high school students onto campus to form relationships, mentor, and connect them to resources during the “Big House Project.” Additionally, Calix co-founded For Your Intellect, a student organization that promotes education through the five positive elements of hip hop.Calix also works with the program evaluation team within CEAL’s Student Advisory Group on Engagement (SAGE), and is a member of America Reads, and Assisting Latinos to Maximize Achievement (ALMA).Calix said being involved in community-based learning has taught her about how much more there is to learn. She also said her CBL experiences remind her to avoid making assumptions about something or someone she may not know a lot about.“I think that community-based learning really shows you why we should even care about community building,” Calix said. “CBL just really teaches me to be more caring and more respectful towards people.”Calix received one of only a few Engelhardt Social Justice Fellowships this summer and will begin her Masters in Higher Education at Eastern Michigan. She hopes to continue on to earn a PhD in Education from the University of Michigan and sees herself working in Detroit or California, the two places she calls home.