Giving Back to the Community: Oak Park Internship
By Kyerah Kyles '22
As students, we have all been affected by the history of our communities, our race, the language directed towards us, and our perceptions of justice or the lack thereof. Through our Transformative Justice Studies internship, we have a chance to bring those experiences to benefit the students at Oak Ridge Elementary in Sacramento.
Part of the planned Transformative Justice Studies experience is an internship with a nearby school in Oak Park. The remote environment means we don’t have a chance to work in person at the schools, so this quarter we have been working with the co-principals and some teachers at Oak Ridge Elementary School.
We are focusing on the pedagogies. Transformative Justice Studies students are divided into four groups based on the pedagogical stance they prefer to work with - history matters, race matters, language matters, and justice matters. Each group is then paired with a teacher or admin at Oak Ridge. We work together to create a user-friendly document that “will be used to help the school, administrators, parents, teachers, and students understand the ways in which History, Race, Justice, and Language matters,” as explained by Dr. Lawrence Winn who is one of the faculty teaching in the program.
I am part of the language matters group. This is important to me because I’ve always felt that language shows care, respect, and an overall understanding of situations involving yourself and those around you. An experience I had in high school involving the use of divisive, marginalizing language was the administration’s emphasis of “rigour, rigour, rigour”. This mantra was only directed towards higher performing students, which created a distinction between students because it was obvious what group you belonged in. It became like a competition of “us vs them” in proving our worth. It is experiences like this that I want to make sure the students at Oak Ridge do not have to experience. It is important to acknowledge that while some students do have that role, the language directed towards them should not stress that as their sole identity.
Creating a Lasting Connection in the Virtual Environment
Working in groups of 4 to 5, we are able to put theories and our own experiences to practice in the elementary school. To be able to draw on our own experiences in regards to the pedagogical stances will allow each group to making a lasting impact at Oak Ridge Elementary.
Our hope for the internship is to create a connection between the Oak Park and UC Davis community. Building on this foundation of community between the area and Davis is an attempt to preserve the legacy of the Oak Park and to not forget the rich history of the area. This is important considering that Aggie Square is located in Oak Park and there are worries that Aggie Square will contribute to the gentrification already taking place in Oak Park.