Welcome back educators, innovators, activists, connectors, supporters and learners!
My name is Erika Lowe, and I am the new Community Based Learning Fellow. I wear many hats in the Burlington community: parent of a kindergartener at Sustainability Academy, Educator in the English Department and ninth grade academy at Burlington High School, member of the Equity Council for the Burlington School District, Poetry Out Loud Advisor and Spark Arts Improviser and performer. Last year and over the summer I had the opportunity to collaborate with and learn alongside educators, parents, school board members and students from Winooski High School. I look forward to spending more time learning about Winooski and engaging with different stakeholders in the community this fall.
I attended the first Steering Committee Meeting of the year last night at the O’Brien Community Center. Jessica Nordhaus, Burlington parent and city government liason, recalled that last year facilitators used the word “swampy” throughout the first Steering Committee Meeting in order to describe the process Winooski and Burlington would go through during first year implementation of the Nellie Mae Grant. Innovation is inspiring, but the implementation process can be murky and take time. It was inspiring last night to reflect upon all of the innovation and implementation that occurred in Winooski and Burlington with the support of the Partnership for Change last year. I feel grateful to serve as a Fellow during this second year where we can continue to build a framework off the foundation so many trudged through the “swamp” together to create.
Last year I co-developed the Getting Real About Race Event with other academy educators. We partnered with community leaders and ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center to spend a day with 300 Burlington High School freshmen having conversations about race and equity in the Burlington Community. I also co-developed the Making a Change Project and Community Night with my colleagues Jocelyn Fletcher and Tammie Ledoux. Students spent weeks attempting to create change in the Burlington Community based on disparities they saw in race, gender, sexuality or class in their world. My experiences last year and my summer research and site visits have shown me that community based learning fosters the 3R’s: relationships, relevance and rigor. I look forward to continuing to learn more about how community based learning can help our communities create more of these authentic learning experiences for our students in the future.