May 13, 2016, BY Matthew Beltz

What class? EDUC 327: Immigrant Youth in U.S. Society

Who Teaches it? Professor Ramona Fruja, education

"While there are many facets of the story of immigration to the United States that are well known, our understanding of the experiences of immigrant children remains limited. Yet they are entering the United States in unprecedented numbers, making them the fastest-growing segment of our youth population. These demographic changes carry a great significance for teachers and all citizens preparing to be informed and active in an inclusive, democratic society. This course is an opportunity for students to examine the complex conditions under which such just inclusion becomes possible, especially when it comes to youth and the inequities present in their experiences.

"We take an interdisciplinary approach — including sociological, psychological and educational contributions to the study of immigrant youth — aiming to understand the challenges they face and different patterns of adaptation. It is also now a service-learning course, which gives students the opportunity to learn with and from young immigrants in our community, as well as to serve their needs by working with them in after-school programming through the Bucknell Office for Civic Engagement.

"Photovoice is a method of group analysis that aims to empower participants to tell their own stories — in this case, of complex experiences of migration and adaptation — through photographs they take and then describe either at school or in local community settings. The pictures represent their unique point of view and everyday realities of their lives. I partially incorporated this approach in the course for the first time this semester.

"Our class first presented examples of their own photos and told stories of who we are and what is important to us in order to show the children how they might approach their own pictures. The youngsters then paired up with our students to explore their own surroundings and take pictures, which they later presented to the whole group and used as starting points to explain what is important in their lives.

"The meetings my students had with these young children and what they learned from their immigrant experiences have definitely impacted them. They had the chance to engage with our course texts in a unique way that would not otherwise have been possible. Every step of the project is an opportunity to learn in immediate ways from the rich experiences of young immigrants. I look forward to doing this on a larger scale for future classes, and hope to culminate the course with a community event where the voices and experiences of newcomer youth in our area can be amplified."

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