The curricula at all CLP sites require field experience as well as reading and classroom learning. The sites use a wide variety of on-campus as well as off-campus strategies for helping students learn through experience with community issues and organizing.
Most Change Studies faculty-members have extensive direct experience in community work, and many classes supplement the regular faculty by involving organizers and other practitioners as adjuncts or as guest speakers and discussion leaders. Instructors for virtually all courses in Community Change Studies develop students’ practical skills through extensive classroom exercises and group problem-solving and analysis. Many courses require extensive work on field assignments, including researching and analyzing community issues, interviewing organizers and community members, and taking part in organizing and community improvement efforts.
Many CLP sites require a full course in field research. They typically involve planning and completing a capstone project analyzing how an organization is addressing a community issue, and include interviews, other field research, and an assessment of lessons from the effort. Over the years, DeAnza College students have become increasingly involved in many on-campus as well as community issues. Since many students commute long distances, they often avoid further travel burdens by focusing their “field” work on on-campus issues like immigrant students’ rights and sanctuary for those who are undocumented, divestiture of carbon stocks by the college, or get out the vote efforts.
Internships provide invaluable in depth experience on the job. However, most community college students can’t afford to give up part-time jobs for an unpaid internship. They need to be paid a living wage. Therefore, we are constantly looking for additional resources to expand paid internships and work experience.
Professor Lena Jones of Minneapolis Community and Technical College offers a unique total immersion program. Each summer she offers MCTC and students from other parts of the country a chance to travel with her to the Mississippi Delta and immerse themselves in meeting with veterans of the civil rights movement and studying the history and lessons of that crucial era. Other sites would benefit greatly from being able to offer that kind of deep immersion experience in a community, a movement or an issue. DeAnza, for example, has offered students an opportunity to learn first-hand about the lives and issues of nearby farmworkers by involving the students in providing literacy education to farmworker families.
Finally, several sites have partnerships with Americorps’ Public Allies programs. PA offers stipends, health and education benefits for 10 months of service and learning to young people, especially “opportunity youth” from low-income backgrounds. Because of their shared commitment to youth leadership development, CLP sites and Allies programs have built partnerships in four cities so far. The most ambitious of these is run by CD Tech, which operates Public Allies for all of Los Angeles and has over 50 paid volunteers each year. Tech recruits, trains and supervises the volunteers and also offers them free enrollment in 1-2 college credit-generating courses in Community Planning and Organizing at LATTC, CD Tech’s community college partner. Students then can enroll as regular college students and work towards a degree.
New York City’s Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development has recruited, enrolled and trained 10 Public Allies each year for ten years. These eighty young people have been placed for on-the-job experience with nonprofit members of the Association. Fully 85% have moved directly into jobs with nonprofits in the city. In other cities CLP sites provide training for Public Allies and guide some graduates into service with the Allies or Americorps VISTA.
Examples of fieldwork experience within CLP programs include:
Minneapolis Internships Toolkit: A how-to guide for managing a community college internship program, based on the experience in Minneapolis.
Apprenticeship Program/New York: What are some elements of a successful experiential learning program? New York’s Center for Neighborhood Leadership Apprenticeship Program offers a guide, based on students’ experiences.
DeAnza Regional Issues–Final Project: As the final project for “The Political Economy of Silicon Valley,” taught at De Anza College by professor Claudia Andrade at De Anza College, students identify and research an organization or campaign addressing a Silicon Valley social problem.