By Brian Folan, Esek Hopkins Site Coordinator
When PASA partners with institutions of higher education, the impact of its mission extends beyond the young people of the AfterZone and Hub and onto the lives of college students. The college students’ experiences with PASA ground their course studies and afford them the opportunity for reflection that deepens their perspective. Not only do the college students benefit from the partnership, but so do the young people in the AfterZone and Hub. By connecting with college students in the community, the young people see examples of empowered learning, where individuals go beyond the classroom to expand their understanding of the world.
Brown University Sexual Health Education (BRUSHE) is a partner organization led by Brown University students, which provides a safe space for young people to expand and critique the messages they receive related to sexual health. The Brown University students who lead BRUSHE recognized the need for a more dynamic conversation regarding bodies, relationships, and responsible personal choices, so they developed a curriculum that paired with the public schools’ pre-existing sex education model. Through the partnership with Brown, this idealized student movement has been able to take form, and PASA is proud to include them in the AfterZone network.
PASA also partners with Providence College, whose service learning curriculum dovetails with PASA’s guiding principles, including youth decision-making power and community-based education. During this academic year, PASA has brought 50 Providence College students, known as service learners, into the AfterZone. Working alongside PASA staff, the service learners are challenged to take greater ownership of their learning by finding relevant ways to apply classroom learning into their AfterZone work and vice versa.
Similarly, Providence College students who are Public & Community Service Studies majors, known as Community Assistants, are charged with the assignment to write a mini-grant, adding even more relevance to their AfterZone experience. They have conversations with PASA staff throughout the semester as they learn more about the organization, its mission, capacity, and needs. In one instance, a service learner convened AfterZone youth in a grant-making committee. By inviting the young people to participate in the grant making process, the service learner empowered young people to take greater ownership of the AfterZone community of which they are a vital part.
Through our partnerships with higher education, PASA’s impact is not limited to the young people in the AfterZone and Hub. It extends to a larger community, which includes college students, that seeks to move forward with a broader perspective on education. Together, we are redefining education, guided by the notion that whole students, whole schools, and whole communities are inextricably linked.