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Digest: Volume 1, Issue 4
August 2012


Making College a Possibility for All Students 

A Reflection Piece by UMD Student Ellen Gagne, College Positive Coordinator

This summer I have had the unique opportunity to work in the Leduc Center for Civic Engagement to integrate the College Positive program with the America Reads/America Counts program. Run through the Leduc Center, both of these programs engage UMass Dartmouth students in helping local area students of different ages. America Reads/America Counts focuses on helping elementary schoolers with literacy and math skills, and College Positive helps high school students with their college search and application process.

We operate under the assumption that intervention at an early age helps students stay on track academically; some people have applied that same assumption to the idea of college-we must intervene early so that every student knows college is an option for them. The Leduc Center has cultivated this idea in its College Positive program.  During these past summer months, I have been working to ensure that when we kick off the America Reads/America Counts program this September, UMass Dartmouth tutors will be infusing the "College Positive" message into all they do.

The "College Positive" mindset is that anyone and everyone can go to college. Although college is not the path everyone chooses, we want to ensure every student in Massachusetts feels as though college is an option and that they understand what it takes to get there. It is never too early to start talking to kids about college, which is why we hope to have our America Reads/America Counts tutors teaching elementary school children about college in addition to math and literacy skills.

In addition to the integration of the America Reads/America Counts and College Positive programs, I have also spent this summer taking young students on tours of the campus. While the admissions office handles tours for "prospective students" who would be entering college in the next year or two, my tours were for groups of students entering grades 3-9. My hope is that college tours for young students can excite, impress, and motivate them to reach the lofty goal of graduating from college. It seemed to work since students on the tour were often heard exclaiming "I can't wait to go to college!" (This was usually in response to all the exciting food options available in the dining hall).

Whether it is the dining hall or the great job prospects that excite students, we hope to host more tours for youngerprospective students. Ideally, every middle school student will have an opportunity to visit our campus, and, at a time when academics is becoming more challenging, the tour will hopefully send the message that if you continue to work hard, there is a bright light (one that includes a cornucopia of culinary options) at the end of the tunnel.

For more information about the America Reads/America Counts or the College Positive program, contact Deirdre Healy, Associate Director at the Leduc Center for Civic Engagement, at dhealy@umassd.edu or 508-999-8641.

(Ellen Gagne, a student in her second year of UMass Dartmouth's Clinical Psychology Master's program, sees her work as an extension of her classroom studies. "The counseling skills I'm learning in class are applicable to the conversations I have with students," said Gagne.)

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UMass Dartmouth Students Find Work in Local Community

Lauren deSerres Kelischek will be graduating from UMass Dartmouth in May with a Master in Fine Arts degree in sculpture. 

"I'm interested in community involvement where people are allowed to touch and interact with art work. The gallery can be very sterile and inaccessible to the public," explained Kelischek. "My work is narrative. It stems from a personal place - my family interaction and what I know. Most people have a family and can understand that." But crafting figures from fibers is not the only thing Kelischek shapes. 

"I'm interested in incorporating the family dynamic into my studio work, and teaching through that art as well," she said. 

So when fine arts professor Richard Creighton received an email from Alma del Mar, a charter school in New Bedford for grades K-2, he contacted Kelischek and Kate Frazer Rego - a UMass alumna - and asked if they'd be interested in volunteering. 

They were. 

"A big part of the curriculum at Alma is based in connected learning. We wanted to incorporate that back into the art elective," said Rego.

"My work is very similar to Lauren's," she continued. "We both work in fibers. We're interested in the process of sewing, and what sewing can mean to the artist personally. Our work is concerned with connections to everyday life - being in the kitchen, being with family, marriage. It's very connected back to what we do everyday." 

Because their art emphasizes connections to the everyday, it was only natural that Kelischek and Rego would participate at a school that shared their focus on linking concepts to practice. 

One of the many art projects that Kelischek and Rego designed for the Alma del Mar students was a farm mural - complete with llamas, chickens, and vegetables. 

"Kids are out of touch with where their food is coming from," said Kelischek, explaining why the farm mural was not only an artistic endeavor, but also a learning initiative. "The school was promoting a gardening program and the kids went to visit a little farm. We wanted to involve the curricular education with the art program." 

Before they began volunteering at Alma del Mar, Kelischek and Rego worked together at artMOBILE - a New Bedford Art Museum sponsored bus that drives through city parks, playgrounds, and communities providing free art lessons to local children. 

It was on their bus rounds that the two sculptors realized how little the children they were working with knew about where their food came from.

"It was surprising about how many kids didn't know from where their food came," said Rego. "It's something we found when we worked for artMOBILE over the summer. We noticed how many children didn't eat well or understand the concept of nutrition or where their food came from. So we decided to do the farm mural at Alma del Mar because we knew it was an important thing to drive home."

Both Kelischek and Rego relish the opportunity to use art as a vehicle to educate students. 

"I'm treating it as if it were my day-to-day job," said Kelischek of the after school program. "It's fun for me. It's challenging for me as well. And it helps me learn about real life situation in my teaching. I see myself doing this. It's good for me mentally and good for my career." 

"I feel that art is a really important part of our lives," added Rego. "I always felt a really deep desire to teach, and I guess it was because of professors that I had in the sculpture and CVPA program. I knew amazing professors as an undergrad - I wanted to be that for someone else."

The educators at Alma del Mar are aware of both the teaching and creative talent they have found in the UMass artists.

"Lauren and Kate have brought a tremendous amount of energy, creativity, and new ideas to Alma del Mar," said Meredith Segal, the Director of Student and Family Services at the charter school. "It's been remarkrable. Everyday they show up with a positive outlook and engaging lesson plan. They share a warmth with the scholars here." 

Because of their pedagogy of connecting education to experience through art, Kelischek and Rego are able to teach students valuable concepts without a single lecture. 

"Kids learn things without knowing it," explains Kelischek, "We talk informally about community. The students are able to play with different art material. They learn about community and world around them through their own experiences - putting it all together and seeing the bigger picture." 

"For a neighborhood project we worked on, we had them create puppet families and homes out of shoeboxes," adds Rego, "They see that their family lives in a house on a street on a block in a town. They understand that it takes all these components to come together to create a community." 

In addition to teaching about community, Kelischeck and Rego have cultivated a community within their after-school program. 

"Lauren and Kate have worked within a tight budget with limited resources," explained Segal. "They provide a place for students who might not otherwise have a safe place to go after school."

Kelischek and Rego are able to convey the importance of community through their teaching and their art. And thanks in part to the art program at the CVPA.

"The sense of community at UMass is strong," said Rego, who moved back to the South Coast after earning her MFA in sculpture from Boston University. "I was never part of the grad program here, but I've stayed in touch with a large number of sculptor grad students over the years. And because we've stayed in touch, we've kind of created our own community. A lot of that is because of professors who care about the program and the school - about fostering the work of young sculptors and artists.

Note from the editor: We have been notified that Kate has been hired as the fulltime Art Teacher at Alma Del Mar for 2012-2013

This article, written by Lynette Nolan, originally appeared in The UMass Dartmouth Torch on April 26, 2012. 

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New Bedford Line Shuttle Unveiled - A Service-Learning Success 

In a twist on a typical ribbon-cutting ceremony, Mayor Jon Mitchell on Thursday drove the first NB Line shuttle through a large banner held by two UMass Dartmouth students to mark the launch of the service. 

Cara Pearson and Alyssa Rutkowski, students in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, were part of a team with Andrew Cefalu and Mike Silvia, who worked on the shuttle's visual and graphic design components. The project was part of the College of Visual and Performing Arts' designing for environment and community class taught by professor David Chapman. 

The shuttle service is a joint venture of the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, Southeastern Regional Transit Authority and the city of New Bedford. It will bring tourists to the city's historical and recreational areas, including downtown, Buttonwood Park and Fort Taber. After the "ribbon cutting," guests assembled under a tent in the courtyard of the park office and heard from National Park Superintendent Jennifer Nersesian, Southeastern Regional Transit Authority Administrator Erik B. Rousseau and the mayor.

"We're looking at a new era in New Bedford," said Nersesian. "We're connecting with our future." She said the shuttle took four years to come to fruition and represents a true partnership between the city, SRTA and National Park Service. Rousseau described the project as a "unique transportation opportunity" for SRTA and said he hopes it will serve as a model for future partnerships with other communities and organizations. 

Mitchell said the NB Line should make visitors' experiences more fulfilling and also easier since it will connect them with downtown and more remote points of interest. He said he also hopes the NB Line will promote the city even more as a hub for history, culture and recreation. "We hope ... we'll have more people spreading the word about New Bedford and what a tourist destination it is," he said. "It's a place where you can spend a whole day, not just breeze through. There's a lot to be seen here." 

For his part, Chapman said "this is probably one of the most gratifying classes I have ever taught," citing his students' success. Pearson and her teammates are proud of what they accomplished. "When I (first) saw the bus, my heart was stopping then beating ... I was so excited," she said.

Another bonus: As a result of her leadership with her team, Pearson has acquired an internship at the National Historical Park.

The NB Line will run from now to Labor Day between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., seven days a week. From Sept. 4 through Columbus Day, it will operate weekends only. The downtown route, connecting the waterfront to visitor destinations in the downtown area, runs every 20 minutes, while the Buttonwood and Fort Taber routes run every 70 minutes and connect destinations such as Buttonwood Park Zoo, Fort Taber Park, antique shops and beaches to downtown.

This article, authored by Jenalina Santiago, originally appeared in The Standard Times on July 06, 2012. 

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 Leduc Center Interview with WSAR1480AM

People on the Move is a weekly radio show on WSAR1480AM.  On June 11, 2012, Dr. Matthew Roy and Deirdre Healy of the Leduc Center and Bill Perkins, Chief Operating Officer of People Inc. were interviewed on People on the Move about the collaboration between People, Inc. and UMass Dartmouth's Leduc Center.  To hear a portion of the interview, please click here.  To listen to the full interview (including commercials), please click here.

People on the Move is hosted by Bob Canuel, CEO and President of People, Inc.  The radio show is a vehicle through which People Inc. highlights its various community programs as well as its affiliations and collaborations with its community partners.

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