Fall 2018: Spelman College Exchange Program — Arnell Calderon

For the fall semester, I attended an exchange program at Spelman College. My attendance wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance of the Lang Opportunity Award, the HEOP program, and faculty members who supported my academic journey. During the semester I enrolled in three courses: Adult and Family Literacy, Literature, Gender, Power and Race, and The Black Female Body in America Literature. While enrolling in courses that were social justice oriented, I volunteered as a reading guide for the program “SpelReads,” and served as an education intern at the non-profit organization, Artportunity Knocks.

SpelReads is a collaboration between Spelman’s Bonner Office of Community Service and the digital literacy program “BookNook.” As a reading guide, I utilized the BookNook app to assist in strengthening the reading comprehension skills of two eighth graders from Brown Middle School. I was able to develop strong relationships with both students as well as witness the growth in their reading skills. My internship with Artportunity Knocks provided me with the opportunity to grow my mentoring and teaching skills. As an education intern, I facilitated an aftercare tutoring group with Atlanta Heights Charter School/Artportunity Knocks non-profit organization. My tutoring group ranged from first graders to eighth graders, and I collaborated with a tutor for Monday and Wednesday sessions. Along with providing homework assistance, I also learned how to create lesson plans and maintain strong relationships with my students. The exchange program at Spelman College not only gave me the opportunity to explore the HBCU space, but I was also given the opportunity to briefly explore the public education system of Atlanta, GA.

Although the exchange program was only for a semester, transitioning from the culture of The New School and into the culture of Spelman, lead me to consider new ways of grounding, learning, listening, and perhaps loving. There were challenges. The challenge of making a home out of an environment that is different than what you’re used to—the challenge of how to navigate an academic institution that historically was built for you but whose politics do not always resonate with your politics, at times I reckoned with different ways of seeing and being. My experience at Spelman showed me the possibilities that come with embracing but challenging difference, and the possibilities that come with treating service and activism as an everyday practice. At the New School, I learn the theory, I debate, I think critically. At Spelman, I also learned the theory, debated, and was in enrolled in courses where my professors encouraged me to think critically—however throughout my volunteer work and internship experience, I began to learn how to create a language for praxis. I am forever grateful to have connected with Black women who share similar desires as I do, who are working towards creating a better world for themselves and our communities.

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