CBL Faculty and Students Focus on Youth in Scranton This Spring

Community-based Learning faculty and students learn about and connect with youth in Scranton.
University of Scranton students and faculty offer a variety of youth engagement activities this spring.
University of Scranton students and faculty offer a variety of youth engagement activities this spring.

This spring Community-Based Learning faculty and students at The University of Scranton engaged with the youth in Scranton through multiple outreach projects with community-partner organizations. From science activities to writing workshops, University faculty and students took their expertise and knowledge from the classroom to the Scranton community. In turn, University community members learned more about the youth in the city of Scranton along with the issues they face and their aspirations for the future.

Science Youth Outreach

Declan Mulhall, Ph.D., professor of physics and engineering, and students in the Royal Scholars program organized meetings with United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s (UNC) “Leaders In Training” program at the start and end of the spring semester. The Royals Scholars program is a National Science Foundation grant-funded scholarship program focusing on assisting students in developing their identities as STEM professionals, exploring careers in STEM and taking steps along the appropriate pathways to these careers to improve the STEM workforce. University students from this program shared how they became interested in STEM, their current research and the career path they plan to follow with youth from UNC’s LIT program in their first meeting in February. LIT students in turn shared their own interests and aspirations. The two groups met up again at the end of April 2022 to follow up to see how plans were developing, check in and enjoy a pizza party together.

University faculty and students from the Biology Department offered a variety of science educational events for 4th-grade students at community-partner school McNichols Elementary Plaza. On April 9 and 10 University students from the Magis Honors Program in STEM led by biology professor and Magis Program director Janice Voltzow, Ph.D., offered three virtual presentations via Zoom to McNichols Plaza’s 4th grade. University of Scranton students shared information on some of the small animals they are currently researching in its Loyola Science Center (LSC). The Magis presentations included: on Monday, May 9; “Salamanders” by Cloe Capalongo, Cabre Capalongo, Nathaniel Smith, and Fione Evans; on Tuesday, May 10; “Zebrafish” by Angela Hudock, Taylor Moglia, Theresa Pham, Katie Regan, and Michael Howard; and “House Wrens” by Meg McGrath, Sarah White, Danica Sinson, and Julia Turnak.  

Later that week on Thursday, May 12, University of Scranton biology students and professors Jong-Hyun Son, Ph.D., and Vincent R. Farallo, Ph.D., took hands-on science displays including some reptiles and amphibians from the LSC to enthusiastic 4th grade students at McNichols Plaza for a “Synapse” activity. 58 McNichols 4th-grade students rotated through six stations, each offering an opportunity to learn about these small animals and even to see and touch them up close while learning more about them. University biology students Charles Dominick ’22, Amanda Gerenza ’22, Maame Addison ’23 and Mario Luzuriaga ’24 hosted stations along with Drs. Son and Farallo with Madagascar hissing cockroaches, crayfish, zebrafish, salamanders, frogs and earthworms.

Career Exploration

This spring, Dana Brookover, Ph.D., NCC, assistant professor in the Counseling and Human Services Department, and her graduate students in COUN 507 Career & Lifestyle Counseling course partnered with Junior Achievement of NEPA (JA) to work with seven Scranton schools to offer JA lessons on career path exploration and planning that included: 1st grade "Our Families," 3rd grade "Our City," and 5th grade "Our Nation."

"The chance to engage in this CBL project with the help of The University of Scranton [Office of Community-Based Learning] and the Junior Achievement (JA) organization was an incredible opportunity. My students and I got the chance to meet students and teachers in the Scranton community and support public school education,” said Brookover.

For this project, Brookover’s Career Counseling graduate students were onboarded by JA as volunteers and trained in their curriculum prior to their placements. When an additional Scranton school requested a partnership with JA, Brookover offered to serve as an instructor.

She continued, “It's never too early to begin learning about these topics, and JA provided us with lessons that were interactive and fun! The best part was how excited the students were to see us each time we visited the classroom. For the counseling students enrolled in the career counseling course, it also provided them with the opportunity to learn hands-on how important and fun talking about career readiness can be."

CBL Talks Program

To help prepare her students, Brookover brought students in her course to this spring’s “CBL Talk: Youth in Scranton” on February, 16. Offered by the Office of Community-Based Learning, the CBL Talks series focuses on important community topics and issues in the greater Scranton area in order to share information with University students and empower them to become a part of positive change in the community. This spring’s talk featured guest speakers Mina Ardestani, principal at McNichols Elementary Plaza and founder of Presence from Prison, and Maureen Maher-Gray, executive director and founder of the NEPA Youth Shelter, who discussed the city of Scranton’s youth population, the challenges they face, and the hopes and aspirations of the youth that they serve.

“The CBL Talks programming offers an important opportunity for University students to learn more about the Scranton area and then engage in post-event reflection on vital community topics and issues that help to build the necessary foundational understanding needed for strong community-based learning collaborations,” said Carolyn M. Bonacci, community and civic engagement coordinator and CBL Board member.

This talk aligned with the Jesuit universal apostolic preference “Journey with Youth” in which Superior General, Fr. Arturo Sosa, S.J., has called on all of us to “accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future.”

Literacy and Physical Wellness

In another CBL partnership, education students in Dr. Jennifer Kaschak’s EDUC 371 Literacy Strategies course partnered with the Scranton Children’s Library to offer a series of workshops in April on topics including: History, “Women in the Early Space Program,” English & Language Arts and Spanish “¡Vamos! Let's Go to the Market,” and Math for Preschoolers “Counting 0-10.” For each session, Kaschak’s students researched children’s books on their topic, created an interactive activity, and then offered sessions that included a "read aloud" of their topical book.

From physical therapy, students in Jennifer J. Schwartz, DPT, NCS’s PT 755 Teaching and Learning in PT course organized group presentations and activities for 10 different community-partner organizations, which included three Scranton grade schools. DPT students offered active learning sessions to educate youth on nutrition, exercise, and what PT is.  Scranton schools served include: 2nd graders at John Adams Elementary, 3rd and 4th graders at McNichols Plaza, and students from John F. Kennedy Elementary. 

Scranton’s Story Youth Engagement

Additional spring youth partnerships included youth engagement events connected to the University’s “Scranton’s Story, Our Nation’s Story” National Endowment for the Humanities supported project. 

On March 29, students from UNC’s “Leaders In Training” program visited the University’s Hope Horn Gallery for activities connected to its spring exhibition, “Mapping Shinnecock. Sites and Portraits. By Jeremy Dennis.” LIT students were provided with a gallery talk by gallery director Dr. Darlene Miller-Lanning that highlighted important themes and issues surrounding Indigenous communities and culture raised by Dennis in his work before visiting the exhibition. LIT students engaged in a “continuous drawing” activity to create portraits as a way of exploring identity.

Additional “Scranton’s Story, Our Nation’s Story” project events included two youth writing workshops provided by Billie Tadros, Ph.D., assistant professor of English, and her students Jonathan Wieland ’22 and Oak O’Connor ’22 at the NEPA Youth Shelter on April 27 and May 11. Both writing workshops used poetic techniques and forms as instructive models for generating writing and storytelling.

“What these workshops do, which is even more important than introducing young writers to forms of poetry and storytelling, is acknowledge youth as experts in their own experiences, with their own stories to tell, and establish space and community for dialogue and listening,” said Tadros.

These workshops were offered in conjunction with the University’s “Scranton’s Story, Our Nation’s Story”, which focuses on telling the story of Scranton and our nation through the history and experiences of the people in our region. These workshops build upon a fall workshop offered by Dr. Hank Willenbrink, Professor of English and Theatre and his student Jon at the NEPA Youth Shelter this past fall, with the goal, as Tadros shared, to “empower the students at the NEPA Youth Shelter to use their voices as writers and storytellers, and also empowered the two University of Scranton students I had the privilege of working with to use their own voices as facilitators and witnesses.”

This approach, to recognize the expertise and experiences of the youth that others encounter, is another essential practice for community-based learning. For Tadros, inspiration came from writer and teacher Felicia Rose Chavez and her recent best-selling book, The Anti-racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom who Tadros quotes in discussing how students come to writing classrooms “as experts in their own right, complete with a unique storytelling tradition” and that “[l]istening is the first and most important step for maintaining a storytelling tradition.’”

To learn more about the University’s Office of Community-Based Learning, please visit scranton.edu/cbl

  • alt placeholderRoyal Scholars students meet with UNC's Leaders In Training program
  • alt placeholderBiology students and faculty offer "Synapse" science activity at community-partner school McNichols Plaza
  • alt placeholderCBL Talk: Youth in Scranton presenters
  • alt placeholderPT students visit McNichols Plaza
  • alt placeholderyouth from UNC's LIT program work on portraits in the University's Hope Horn Gallery
  • alt placeholderUNC's LIT youth with their portraits at the Jeremy Dennis exhibition
Back to Top