Urban Education Summer Scholars mentor future teachers

Twenty-two college students of color have been awarded scholarships for this year’s Urban Education Summer Scholars (UESS) program. UESS, in its ninth year, was created by Minnesota Private Colleges in collaboration with Hamline University Center for Excellence in Urban Teaching and the St. Paul Public Schools.

Dr. Dwight Watson, chair of the Education Department at Hamline University explained that UESS was developed to increase the number of teachers of color in the St. Paul and Minneapolis urban schools. The program focuses on building urban teaching skills, and this summer will also include intentional job seeking skills development.

The UESS program is funded by a $201,000 grant from Travelers, a St. Paul company that is one of the largest providers of property and casualty insurance products in the United States. “Improving student access to post-secondary educational opportunities is critical to the long-term economic success of an individual and a community,” said Mary Pickard, president of the Travelers Foundation.

“Travelers Urban Education Summer Scholars program gives young people an opportunity to pursue a college education while at the same time, increasing the number of teachers of color in the classroom where young minds are being shaped,” Pickard added.

Watson observed that as students of color in the St. Paul and Minneapolis public schools increased, so did the need to focus on offsetting the imbalance of a decrease in teachers of color. “Students tend to perform better when there are more teachers who look like them,” he said.

As part of the UESS program, scholarships are awarded to students of color who are committed to pursuing a teaching career in a Twin Cities urban school, with a preference for students who want to teach in St. Paul.

Beginning in mid June and lasting for eight weeks, the scholars will participate in a service learning that includes professional development. Scholars will co-teach with experienced teachers in various urban educational settings in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

James Barnett, a St. Olaf College senior, is one of this year’s UESS scholarship recipients. Barnett said he feels very blessed to have been given this opportunity and he is extremely excited to start learning practical classroom skills.

Barnett is a first generation college student from a foster home. He started his academic career late, he said, and as a future teacher he hopes to impart to students that there is power in education and in learning the fundamentals at an early age.

Isis Roper, a graduate of Bethel College, was one of the first UESS scholarship recipients in 1998. She now teaches at Crossroads Elementary School in St. Paul, and is a 2006 recipient of the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award for her excellence in education. Roper reflects that her UESS experience was invaluable. She learned how to apply the knowledge she gained in college in an urban setting with a diverse student population.

Roper went on to get a Masters degree at Hamline University majoring in urban teaching. This was made possible in part due to the mentoring and support from the people in the UESS program, she noted. Additionally, Roper’s ongoing involvement in the program is serving to enhance her leadership skills. Roper now mentors and offers support to new scholars in the program.

“UESS is an important program,” affirms Watson, “that is steeped in urban practices to teach students and especially to help close the achievement gap between minority and white students. Hamline University’s Center for Excellence in Urban Teaching is proud to work with St. Paul Travelers, Minnesota Privates Colleges and the St. Paul Public Schools to meet the needs of the urban communities.”

For more information about the Urban Education Summer Scholars program, contact Hamline Univerity’s Center for Excellence in Urban Teaching at 651-523-2416, Urban Teaching [at] hamline [dot] edu, or www.hamline.edu/uranteaching.

Jennifer Holder welcomes reader responses at jyholder [at] msn [dot] com

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    Jennifer Holder's picture
    Jennifer Holder

    Jennifer Holder contributes regularly to the TC Daily Planet and the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.