Twenty-three New York City high school students presented the findings of their inquiries into the city’s complex social and historical issues at a presentation held Aug. 2 at Fordham’s Bronx campus.
The event marked the culmination of their participation in History Makers, a six-week summer program at the Rose Hill campus that introduces local teens to college-level historical research in the city’s archives, libraries, and museums–with special focus on social justice.
Now in its seventh year, the History Makers program is the product of a partnership between Fordham and BronxWorks, a non-profit settlement house that helps individuals and families improve their economic and social well being. The collaboration is made possible by a grant from the Teagle Foundation, whose College-Community Connections program brings together community-based organizations and New York City colleges and universities.
Working with college mentors, the students refined research topics and formulated critical questions to guide their inquiries. Sixteen-year-old Yesenia Reynoso’s group explored how education can be used as a tool of both oppression and liberation. Other topics included “Gentrification in the South Bronx” and “Laws and Oppression.”
Reynoso, a rising senior at the Bronx Early College Academy, described how the program helped her gain insight into social issues.
“I would never speak to anybody in depth about racism and how it’s created. But when I came into the program my mind opened up and flourished with all these great critical questions. I never stopped learning and I never stopped asking, and I think that’s the one thing this program has that nothing else can compare to,” she said.
Aderlyn Lopez, 17, another rising senior at the Academy, said the program has expanded his perspective. “In this classroom I have seen more diverse views than I could see in a semester back at school,” he said.
Desiree Vazquez, program associate for the Teagle Foundation, said that the Foundation wants to serve as a catalyst for change in higher education.
“One of the most exciting things about this particular partnership is that it calls upon the rich history that we have here in New York, and that’s so important,” she said.
Sandra Lobo Jost, FCRH ’97, director of the Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice, also credited BronxWorks for the success of the program.
“Without the right fit this [program]could have crumbled in the first year. In the last seven years this partnership has strengthened. We’ve challenged each other in how we can support each other more and how we can deepen that relationship,” she said.
In addition to attending classes and using the Fordham library, the students got a real taste of college life by spending the final week living on campus.
In his three years working with History Makers, first as a college mentor and now as program director, Michael Strom, FCRH ’11, has seen an increase both in student applications and in student commitment to college access and social justice.
“What we are seeking to do is build a type of education that is transformative,” he said. “That requires us to have transformative students—students that come together in the world with each other in order to love the world. And that’s what they did.”