This past weekend, some of my cohort mates and I attended the 40th Anniversary Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School Education Symposium. Our faculty offered a small scholarship to attend the symposium, as many of the day’s topics delved into social justice topics. I have to admit that I had never heard of the school. I had never even heard of Paseo Boricua, which is where the school is located. Technically it is East Humboldt Park and runs along Division from Western to California. I was amazed to discover this thriving and vibrant community that is offering phenomenal programming (education, health, agriculture, skills) of all types to the students who live there. After my visit, I am seriously considering packing up my belongings and moving down to the Puerto Rican Promenade!
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The symposium’s purpose was dual: to act as a celebration of the anniversary of the school and as an opportunity to share teaching resources with Chicago teachers at large. The high school’s mission is as follows:
Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School’s mission is to provide a quality educational experience needed to empower students to engage in critical thinking and social transformation, from the classroom to the Puerto Rican community, based on the philosophical foundation of self-determination, a methodology of self-actualization and an ethics of self-reliance.
One of the school’s founders, Oscar López Rivera, is currently a political prisoner. The school is very upfront about this, sharing the history of his wrongful imprisonment both at the symposium and with their students. Students at the school often write Rivera letters. One such letter from a student included this:
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Before coming to Campos HS, I did not really use my voice. Now that I’m here, I never stop talking. I’m glad I found this school, because if it wasn’t for this school, I would not have a second chance at an education. Even though I am young, I know I have a voice because of you.
The teacher workshops we attended were led by some of the top social justice educators in the country. The first I attended was called Beyond Social and Emotional Learning: Understanding Actions and Emotions in a Social & Historical Context and was led by Dr. Jason Irizarry from the University of Connecticut. Dr. Irizarry shared with us his work with Puerto Rican and Mexican high school students who took a course with him where they completed participatory action research. Dr. Irizarry played a clip of a student discussing how what she does best at school is, “being quiet.” He showed us the same student at the end of her action research program, talking a mile a minute about injustices she saw in the world, how she could prove they existed with her work, and her hope of becoming an urban teacher.[flickr id=”8431434038″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”original” group=”” align=”none”]
The final workshop I attended was called Understanding the Development of Civic Identities and Participation Amongst Minoritized Youth in an Activist Community and was led by Dr. Enid Rosario from the University of Michigan and Dr. Laura Ruth Johnson from Northern Illinois University. They are currently teaching the teachers at Albizu Campos how to conduct research at their school, as all of their programs successfully integrate civic education. They laid out how Albizu Campos partners hand in hand with community organizations who present real issues to students so that they can spend the year working on finding actual solutions. One of the most inspiring of these projects is the greenhouse that was recently built on the top of the school as a result of the students’ research into food deserts. I think it goes without saying that this is exactly the type of work I hope to be doing some day. The entire symposium was simultaneously inspiring, thought provoking, and utterly joyful.