TUTORING THROUGH YC CONNECT
2018-19 | East Harlem & Manhattan Valley, NY
Yale Community Connect has been working hard to form partnerships with Mosaic Preparatory Academy and Booker T. Washington JHS (MS54) to provide ongoing opportunities for volunteers to tutor and mentor local students.
Yale Community Connect volunteer Nina Jaroslaw (YC ’85) offers her reflections on her YC Connect experiences since October 2018. Nina created an enrichment class, “Who Am I? Exploring Identity and Culture Through Self-Portraiture” for students in the 3rd to 5th grades, and now teaches a class twice a week to groups of 5th graders during their school day. Nina has built a lasting relationship with the teachers and administrators with whom she works.
Mosaic Preparatory Academy in East Harlem is committed to a rigorous and rich educational experience for its students, but as forty percent of them live either in unstable housing or in shelters, and the vast majority qualify for free lunch, the institutional challenges are myriad. It has been my great privilege to partner with the school – with the invaluable assistance of Darian Marcel Parker (PhD ‘13) – to share with them a curriculum I developed, “Who Am I? Exploring Identity and Personal History Through Self-Portraiture.” The class uses art historical, literary and visual arts resources to discuss who we are and where we come from, both individually, within our immediate families, and collectively, as part of greater communities, and culminates in the creation of full-size, full-body portraits incorporating various media and text. It has been a deeply gratifying and reciprocal experience teaching these extraordinary kids. Week after week, I found myself in awe of their capacity for self-reflection, cultural questioning, and personal expression. And I am deeply grateful to YANA for opening the door to such an opportunity.
“We look at and create portraits that reflect the diversity and experience of all people, particularly people of color and women. Through developmentally appropriate
engagement with fictional texts, classical and contemporary portraiture, color theory, the science of skin, and then through students’ painting, drawing and writing, we elaborate on what it means to have an identity. The goal is to understand ourselves as products of our histories, celebrants of our cultural connections and explorers of our unique traits, and then to create life-size self-portraits.”
Booker T. Washington JHS:
I have, in addition, been delighted to participate in Afternoon Academy, Booker T. Washington Junior High School’s after-school homework tutoring program. Unlike my Mosaic experience, this opportunity requires no preparation or curriculum development – it only asks that tutors be enthusiastic advocates for learning. An hour and a half with the “Booker T” kids every week has been joyous and fulfilling, though I have to confess I have had to grapple occasionally along with students when contending with math problems! (Actually, those grapplings have been among the most productive of my tutoring experiences – nothing like muddling through to a correct answer together)!
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