Margot Stern Strom Innovation Grant: Exploring the Concept of Universe of Obligation in NYC

Posted by Lauren Boccia on June 26, 2013

In true teacher fashion right before a big trip with students, I could not sleep. I kept thinking about what I hope my students will get out of this service immersion trip. I truly hope they learn more about themselves, their country, and the struggles those who live on the margins of society face on a daily basis.

The Margot Stern Strom Innovation Grant is making this experience possible for my Facing History Student Leadership Group. Today we leave for New York City where we will spend a week working to serve the communities of Spanish Harelm, the Lower East Side, Hell's Kitchen, Fordham Heights, and Mott Haven. My hope is that these students will not only learn about the struggles people in these communities face such as poverty, homelessness, immigration, discrimination, and violence, but also gain a better understanding of what it means to be human and the responsibility we have to serve one another. These 7 days will challenge and expand their Universe of Obligation, provide opportunities for them to meet real Upstanders in the communities, and introduce them to new and exciting vehicles for change to take home.

St. Agnes Academy, Memphis Tn is part of a cohort of Dominican schools. Through this cohort, Dominican Academy in New York City extended an invitation to us and Our Lady of the Elms, Akron Ohio to be a part of this service immersion opportunity, interestingly titled : The Big Onion. The thought behind the title was that the all-girl student members would be pealing back the layers of the city. This experience was a perfect fit for the Facing History Student leadership Group at SAA because it would be a chance for them to expand on the community work they have been doing in Memphis with FHAO. By going to places like POTS (Part of the Solution), Hot Bread Kitchen, and the Catholic Worker, my students will gain the tools to facilitate student conversations at home on topics such as, the struggles marginalized people face in our country, the importance of looking at how we treat each other in our own community, and what it means (and what it takes) to be an
Upstander today. We will also be going to the Tenement Museum to gain a deeper understanding of the history of immigration in our country.

When I told my students, Abby, Maya, and Rachael, about this chance to go to New York to deepen and challenge our understanding of the Facing History concept of Universe of Obligation, they were immediately thinking of ways to include others on this journey. I must admit, there is no better joy as an educator than to see your students take an idea you thought was good and make it even better! I was overjoyed hearing them talk about creating a blog to document what they learn as they learn, and to ultimately create a documentary to share with the St. Agnes student body and the Facing History student leaders in Memphis. By creating a blog and documentary, these girls are creating avenues for open and honest discourse by encouraging their peers to look inside themselves to find their own way to become agents of change.

I am very grateful to have received the Margot Stern Strom Innovation Grant that has paid for our flight to NYC and for the equipment my students are using to create the documentary. As we take this journey, I will be keeping you informed of the challenges, experiences, and adventures we will face.

Here is the student blog.....

Topics: Universe of Obligation, Innovative Classrooms, Margot Stern Strom Innovation Grants

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Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

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