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Education scholars tackle issues facing Charlotte schools

By Nate Harding
On September 11, 2013

  • Virginia Berry ’10 was named first team All-Southern Conference for her play at No. 2 singles for the Wildcats this season.


How does change happen? What is needed to enact change? How can I make a difference?

Over the summer, eight Davidson students tackled these questions and more through project-based internships in various sectors of the K-12 education system in Charlotte as part of Davidson College's new ten-week Education Scholars program, one of several Transition to Impact (T2I) programs offered through the President's Office.

The scholars were placed in dynamic internships with various education-focused organizations, including Project LIFT, Teach For America, and the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte. The duties and responsibilities of each scholar's internship differed enormously.

Laura Thrash '14 worked as the Communications Intern in the Communities in Schools (CIS) central office in Charlotte. "My challenge as the Communications Intern was to help communicate CIS' message to a wider audience," Thrash shared, "[which] is harder than it sounds."

Alternatively, Rashaun Bennet '16 examined Advanced Placement enrollment in Charlotte-Mecklenberg high schools. "I looked at the demographic breakdowns, patterns, trends, etc. that correlated with AP enrollment in the high schools [and] made recommendations [to] the CMS Executive Staff on ways to increase AP numbers," Bennet explained.

Meanwhile, Emily Rapport '16 worked with the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte to teach blogging at a digital media literacy camp. Megan Mavity '14 partnered with the International House and The Belk Foundation to tutor young English learners and to conduct research about how to improve English Language Learners education in the Charlotte area.

Because each scholar was paired with a different organization, each was pro- vided with a unique perspective on the multi-tiered issue of the current state of Charlotte's education system. "Since they worked with a wide range of organizations, the eight students represented a microcosm of the K-12 education system in Charlotte," Allison Dulin '10, Special Projects Manager in the President's Office, explained.

In addition to the vigorous work environments the students were immersed in each day, the scholars also had the unique opportunity to share their findings with one another each evening. Throughout the duration of the program, the students resided together in a new Johnson C. Smith apartment complex, Mosaic Village, located in the heart of Charlotte, where their experiences across the educational ecosystem of the area sparked many insightful discussions and heated intellectual debates between the scholars.

"The residential component was extremely important because they regularly reflected on what they were learning and [...] about the education system as a whole and not only their own individual experiences," Dulin said.

Learning from one another about the many issues that arise when approaching issues in public education at any level had a clear impact on the scholars.

"I quickly came to realize the complexity of the meaningful change I entered the Education Scholars [program] hoping to create," Thrash said. "There are numerous players who, though united by good intentions, differ in opinion. People, practice, and policy all have to align in order to have a collective impact. There are no one-size- fits-all models."

Beyond making insightful realizations about the difficulty of solving issues in education, the scholars also established a powerful bond with the Charlotte community, not only through their interaction with education leaders in the area, but also through their exposure to city culture.

"It was amazing to realize that we had developed personal relationships with so many key stakeholders in Charlotte's education ecosystem," Rapport noted.

But whether in an office, a classroom, or roaming the streets of Charlotte, each scholar experienced an overwhelming call to action to promote change on a local scale. This made for an immersive, collaborative experience, fulfilling the mission of Davidson's Transition to Impact programs.

"Our community extends to Charlotte and beyond, despite the differences and distances that may exist along the 20 minute drive," scholar Linnea Ng '15 said.

The eight education scholars this summer served as pioneers for the program, challenged with the task of embracing an entirely new concept and paving a path for generations of Wildcats to experience. And their feedback indicates that they unanimously believe that it is a road well worth traveling:

"I believe programs like the Education Scholars are an enormous step in the right direction for Davidson College," Bennett said.

"Davidson created an innovative pro- gram and opened doors for me and my fellow Education Scholars through our internships, and my co-workers gave me opportunities to work on projects that interested and challenged me," scholar Robin Malloch '14 shared.

"These programs are a fantastic idea to translate all the theoretical learning we can experience in the classroom into everyday life and actually making a little bit of a difference," Mavity concluded.

At this time it is unclear whether or not the program will run in the same form as it did this summer, but the Education Scholars program is just one of Davidson's many new Transition to Impact initiatives. Each program is designed to provide Davidson students with a rare opportunity to pursue their passions while learning how to be impactful throughout their lives.

"We're not in the business of narrowly preparing students for specific careers," Dulin said about the Transition to Impact initiatives. "We're in the business of preparing students for lives of leadership and service-and that requires students to connect the way they learn to the way they live in the world. Our Transition to Impact programs support this process." 

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