SU welcomes Garfield students to learn about social justice
The Garfield High School students posed in front of SU’s new Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons.
While at Seattle University recently, 25 Garfield High School 11th graders were asked where they think social change is needed most today. Topping their list, they agreed, would be health care, education and how modern-day racism limits opportunities.
From a panel of SU faculty of color, they later heard that access to a quality P-12 education and higher education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century.
A U.S. history project on social movements for change brought the Garfield students to SU. It’s part of the university’s long tradition of working with youth. That effort has intensified with the new Seattle University Youth Initiative, which will engage many partners to help students whose educational journeys begin at Bailey Gatzert Elementary School and continue at Washington Middle School and Garfield.
The Garfield students took part in social justice seminars with SU students in the Master in Teaching program (MIT). How social issues of the 1960s and ’70s connect to issues in life today was the critical question.
“In the ’60s and ’70s, they were still trying to unite the country. We need to help ourselves first before we can help other countries,” one Garfield student said.
“Everyone in America today has some kind of demand,” said another. “We’re free in this country, but instead of fighting wars, we should be helping people.”
The faculty panel described their educational and career paths and research related to social justice and change. Among them, Sociology Assistant Professor Gary Perry pointed to the impact disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the quake and tsunami in Japan can have on people of color. Assistant Sociology Professor Mako Fitts talked of how Seattle’s underground hip hop culture has generated community organizing.
The collaboration was inspired by Charisse Cowan Pitre, MIT associate professor, and Olivia Geffner, ’10 MIT, who teaches history at Garfield. They are committed to nurturing college aspirations among high school students from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups and those who would be the first in their families to attend college, they said. Ideas for the project emerged from Geffner’s desire to enact values of social justice and change emphasized in the MIT program when she was a student. Cowan Pitre and Geffner said they plan to make this an annual event.