The New York Community Learning Partnership is an emerging local initiative that prepares low-income women, first generation college students, young men of color and others in need of opportunity, for jobs and leadership in organizing, advocacy, community development and allied fields. We establish partnerships among community-based organizations and colleges in CUNY (City University of New York) that serve neighborhoods most impacted by inequality.
As New York and our country confront the devastating effects of economic, racial and environmental inequality, our program stands out in activating our greatest and most underutilized asset: those very New Yorkers who are on the front lines. We respond to the need for a stronger pipeline for skilled community change workers. We reach low-income women, immigrants and young men of color in the colleges where they go to forge their futures – including the community colleges that have such a critical role in workforce development and preparing students to successfully pursue further education.
The New York Community Learning Partnership is paving the way between an untapped resource— those who know best the needs and assets of their own communities but do not yet know how to become effective agents of change—and the education, program support, professional networks and career opportunities they need to succeed.
After over a year of laying the groundwork in CUNY, in 2015 we launched an exciting new academic program with the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at the City College of New York. This program reflects our multi-dimensional approach. A Fall 2015 course in Community Organizing and Politics connected students with a broad range of issues, including, for example, collaborating with CASA/New Settlement to support community priorities for rezoning. An Oral History course (outside the Colin Powell School but supported by a pilot grant from it) worked with the East Harlem-El Barrio Community Land Trust on an oral history archive of neighborhood preservation activism, and was audited by several members of the land trust board and supporting staff. A Community-Based Research course in Spring 2016 supported the development of community land trusts in New York City, partnering with organizations that include Picture the Homeless and the New York City Community Land Initiative. These new courses, along with a required internship and a range of cross-sector electives, form the basis for the new minor in Social Change Practice at the Colin Powell School, approved in 2016.
The program at the Powell School serves as a model for other schools in CUNY. Having concentrations and the basis for certificate programs allows schools to link the knowledge, skills and networks we foster, to a range of relevant degree programs and student majors.
While the schools implement their own programs, our role is to support the community-based partnerships, and to make connections across campuses, including giving faculty and administrators the tools they need. Toward replication and adaptation, we have connected with at least 20 CUNY faculty and administrators from 9 different campuses; convened a dozen stakeholders with 6 different CUNY colleges represented; and secured a scholarship to bring a CUNY professor to the national Community Learning Partnership’s 2014 Faculty/Partner Institute. We have relationships with faculty and administrators throughout the CUNY system, including Kingsborough Community College, Guttman Community College, Hostos Community College, Queens College LaGuardia Community College, Brooklyn College, the CUNY Graduate Center, and the Silberman School of Social Work. Four different colleges are represented on our Advisory Working Group.
We also have working relationships many of the city’s community organizing groups and other nonprofits advancing social justice.
Our unique approach brings schools within CUNY, including community colleges that reach those who are most in need of opportunity, together with local organizations that are often overlooked as an employment engine, to create new programs in organizing and community change skills.
The New York Community Learning Partnership:
- Fosters long-term community/academic partnerships among institutions.
- Brings experienced organizers, community-based researchers and organization leaders into CUNY classrooms for learning and sustained projects.
- Provides role models and mentors for students who see few people managing organizations whose race, gender and experiences reflect their own.
- Supports internships and field work that give students concrete work experience while building the capacity of community-based organizations.
- Creates new certificates and skills-based curriculum that schools can integrate into existing degree programs, amplifying our cross-sector impact.
- Draws on research that shows that when students study topics that directly relate to their lives they are much more likely to stay engaged, and complete their educational program – a top priority in post-secondary education.
Toward establishing a local program, several years ago the Community Learning Partnership contributed financial and other resources to establishing the Center for Neighborhood Leadership, a project of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, and its successful Organizer Apprenticeship Program, developed with Public Allies NY. Dozens of organizers have graduated from this program, and are serving essential staffing roles throughout the city.
A New York program has the potential to draw from an extensive network of college-access programs and community-based support programs for low-moderate income students and students of color. We have a large network here of community colleges and 4-year colleges with a range of relationships among them. There are also ample employment possibilities in community change and in jobs in public health, education and cultural organizations, just to name a few, that seek staff with outreach, organizing, research and relationship-building skills.
Advisory Working Group (In Formation)*
Rodney Fuller, Executive Director, Public Allies NY
John Krinsky, Associate Professor of Political Science, The City College of New York
Irma Rodriguez, Director, International Federation of Settlements and Neighborhood Associations, former Executive Director, Queens Community House.
Kevin Ryan, Program Director, New York Foundation
Debra Schultz, Assistant Professor of History, Kingsborough Community College
Hector Soto, Assistant Professor of Public Administration (Criminal Justice), Hostos Community College
*Organizations listed for identification.