Professors and researchers from Clark’s Hiatt Center for Urban Education joined local teachers, a Clark undergraduate, and several local high school students to present a panel featuring the Hiatt Center’s student-focused research and projects focused on race and equity, youth voice, and teacher inquiry at the 42nd Ethnography in Education Research Forum at the University of Pennsylvania earlier this year. The forum focused on complexities associated with race and inequity that have historically defined social systems in the U.S. and globally.
Hiatt fellows Jennifer Ha, Yaa Brefo, and Debrin Adon — all seniors at the University Park Campus School (UPCS) — presented on 508Discussions, a podcast they created to make public the types of conversations today’s teenagers have about current events, so that adults can hear the youth perspective. Topics discussed in previous podcasts range from presidential elections to standardized tests, school dress codes, and the impact of Kobe Bryant’s death. Ha, Brefo and Adon have been connected with the Hiatt Center since they participated in R.A.P.F.A.I.R. (Revolutions and Protests that Fought Against Imperial Rule), an annual event started by Max Stern ’12, MAT ’13, a UPCS history teacher, where ninth-grade students can share their historical research through rap.
Brefo wrote, “Youth voice is important because the world is changing and youths are changing with it. They’re the ones who will have the most experience during the changes. So to hear them out and see how they feel about what’s going on around them is very important, and to also act upon them — not just to hear them, but also act upon them.”
Raphael Rogers, associate professor of practice, presented details about his partnership practice work with three Worcester secondary history teachers and their students, exploring how slavery is being taught in elementary schools today and examining how it is represented in contemporary picture books. For the past few years, he has collaborated with former student Helen Ward, MAT ’13, now a history teacher at Claremont Academy, and has involved her students in this project.
“Many students were willing to engage with the material, and we were able to hear a lot from them in regards to their reactions,” said Ward.
Rogers said that at its core, this partnership work is about providing young people with an opportunity to share their perspectives about how slavery is represented in schools and children’s book publishing.
Claremont junior Ailany Rivas and senior Fernando Matos worked with Rogers and Ward to co-author an article about using picture books to teach about slavery; the article is expected to publish in the forthcoming issue of Social Education, a journal for secondary social studies teachers from the National Council for the Social Studies.
Klein Ngoga ’22, a political science major, served as a panelist at the forum to discuss his involvement with the Journal of Youth Scholarship (JOYS), a print and online journal published through the Hiatt Center that features youth research, creative writing, essays, and memoirs. JOYS, the product of a youth-driven planning team and majority-youth editorial board, is a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal centered on both research and creative pieces authored by secondary-level youth.
“Having the opportunity to do meaningful work that empowers the youth is an aspect of JOYS that I find fulfilling,” wrote Ngoga.
“It was wonderful to be able to showcase multiple Hiatt projects from K-12 youth and Clark undergraduates, teachers, and university researchers,” wrote Katerine Bielaczyc, director of the Hiatt Center. “The symposium highlighted key themes within the Hiatt Center, including the value and power of youth knowledge creation as part of systems change, of researching practices promoting equity, and of multigenerational communities of inquiry.”
Nastasia Lawton-Sticklor, a research scientist in the Hiatt Center, said, “The fact that we brought youth to the conference rather than talking about youth work was intentional. Our work is not just about telling youth stories — it’s about creating spaces where youth are telling their own stories.”
Rogers noticed that the number of attendees and questions at the end of the panel they delivered reflected what he and others in the Hiatt Center have observed in recent years.
“It is very important to hear from youth about issues such as culturally sustaining pedagogies and racial justice and equity,” said Rogers.
The Hiatt Center for Urban Education was established at Clark University in 1991 by a gift from philanthropist Jacob Hiatt, M.A. ’46, to support the University and local schools in working together to improve educational opportunities. Since 2012, the Hiatt Center has been engaging youth, teachers, administrators, community-based educators, and Clark academics and students as participants in building a community-integrated research model, the Hiatt Community of Inquiry. At the core of their work is a commitment to “research with,” rather than “research on,” based on collaborative, humanizing methodologies and an underlying belief that such research can create spaces of care, transformation, and deep learning.