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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Social justice concerns connect UA with high schoolers

    High school students in the Tucson Unified School District are challenging traditional student-teacher relationships and social inequalities with collaboration between the UA and TUSD.

    In the Social Justice Education Project, junior and senior students at Cholla High Magnet School and Tucson High Magnet School are designing and conducting research on topics they choose.

    “”The idea is to get a youth voice to the policy makers so that when they make decisions that involve and concern the youth, they have a youth perspective,”” said Julio Cammarota, co-director of the Social Justice Education Project and an assistant professor of Mexican American studies at the UA. “”Every day these people make decisions concerning the youth, but they never really ask what they want.””

    The research will be used to affect policy and reform to create social change in the community and allow the student voice to be heard, Cammarota said.

    Past research topics range from media representation of students of color to stereotypes within schools, Cammarota said.

    Students present their findings at the end of the four-semester project to teachers, the school board and the county board of supervisors, Cammarota said.

    Kim Dominguez, a Cholla High alumna, credits graduating on time to the Social Justice Education Project, even after she took a year off from high school to work to help support her family.

    “”In high school, there are all these stereotypes that exist about gangsters and skaters or whatever, and (the social justice education program) brought us together and allowed us to put that all aside,”” Dominguez said.

    Dominguez said she now teaches students at Cholla High in the program to give back to her community the opportunities and motivation that she received.

    One of the main reasons for the program’s success is compassion by the teachers for the students’ success in and out of the school environment, said Augustine Romero, the director of the Raza studies department at TUSD and co-director of the program.

    “”Rather than the education happening to them, they view it as something they have control and a voice in,”” Romero said. “”They look at education as something they can do.””

    The success of the program is evident in the graduation rates of the students, with 90 percent of the students graduating from high school in its first year, and all the students graduating from high school and about 80 percent of them moving on to college every year since, Cammarota said.

    “”Most people are satisfied with changing one class or one school, but we want to move a whole district,”” Cammarota said.

    Implementing the program across TUSD to serve as a model nationally for similar programs is one of the goals of the program, Cammarota said.

    Romero and Cammarota said they will publish an essay about the Social Justice Education Project, titled “”Critically compassionate pedagogy for Latino students,”” in the June issue of the Latino Studies journal published by the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign.

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