By Omairys Rodriquez, College Assistant at Guttman Community College
The spring 2014 Community Days focused on the topic of immigration. Linked to the City Seminar course, Community Days are becoming a Guttman tradition. Students learn from the rich community of New York City and apply what they have learned in the classroom and from service opportunities as a way to give back to New York City. This semester, the Community Days experience was designed by First-Year students to create the workshops offered on the first day of the event.
On April 23, 12 concurrent workshops provided students opportunities to participate in interactive sessions to explore and learn more about the immigrant experience. In “The Games We Played” workshop, for example, House 3, Cohort 2 students engaged in recreational activities that immigrant groups brought to America from their home countries as they learned to adapt to life in America, including Scopa, a card game from Italy, and Chinese checkers. Students from House 1, Cohort 1 focused on telling moving stories of the immigrant experience through video, pictures, and personal biographies. With impressive artistic vision, students from House 1, Cohort 2 utilized fabric, paper, markers, and data to illustrate their perceptions and depictions of immigration in New York City. Three separate U.S. maps were sewn together from burlap fabric and adorned with artwork, personal observations and statements from famous individuals such as John F. Kennedy and President Obama. In another workshop students from House 1, Cohort 3 held an art festival to celebrate the immigrant experience through dance, music and the spoken word. Students also had an opportunity to view several documentary videos, including “American Gypsy,” about the lives of the Romani (Gypsies) who live in the U.S. today.
On April 24, students volunteered with numerous non-profit organizations across the city, providing service while learning about the work and advocacy roles of the agencies with whom they worked.
Continuing students also were invited to participate in Community Days. On April 24, they reflected with Peer Mentors on the people and places that were influential in their journey to becoming a college student. Guest speaker Rodney Fuller, Executive Director of Public Allies in New York, led a session providing students with practical strategies on how to develop new leadership to strengthen communities. Mr. Fuller emphasized that lasting social change results when citizens of all backgrounds step up, take responsibility, and work together. Students ended the day by creating an action plan for “giving back” to their place using ePortfolio and the data they collected from their Street Analysis.
“Each semester we’re evolving in how we can best offer students the focused opportunity of two days specifically devoted to learning from and contributing to the city of New York in ways relevant to what they are studying here at Guttman and to their academic and career paths after Guttman. Civic engagement, social responsibility, and applied learning are key learning outcomes in our educational model,” says Dr. Claire King, Assistant Professor of Experiential Learning at the college.
The Community Days experience is part of the required City Seminar course and provides practical learning and community-based activities around topics connected to New York City. Group activities facilitate broad discussion and engage students to take action to improve the community. Guttman Community Days are an important dimension of the community-based learning that is the foundation for the college’s model of teaching and learning in which the city becomes an extension of the classroom. During the fall 2013 semester, the Community Days focused on the City Seminar I theme of climate change.