Last Thursday, a group of IVLP visitors from Poland traveled to San Antonio to learn more about efforts local schools, non-profits, and educators are taking to enhance civic education and social awareness for youth. Through their appointments, the visitors delved into topics like media literacy, serving homeless youth, empathy training, and youth arts programs. All of these areas enhanced their knowledge and showed them new forms of education that are preparing future citizens in the U.S.
They began by meeting Ms. Lisa Barry, a teacher at Woodridge Elementary School in Alamo Heights, who has worked on creating a fifth-grade curriculum over 15 years that introduces students to the Holocaust. Her unique approach focuses on teaching children about other children and creating a sympathetic connection to overcome barriers of assumption and dehumanization. Visitors were very curious to ask more about addressing these issues with children in a sensitive, yet nuanced way.
The group then met with City Year at our downtown offices. In their meeting with City Year, they were able to discuss City Year’s efforts to provide an outlet for post-highschool and post-college young people in educating the next generation. The efforts of these City Year tutors and classroom aides can be life-changing for elementary-age children as they are helped through coursework by City Year staff members. Chief of Staff Stephanie Gargiulo and Team Managers Sergio Plaza III and Brittany Burns were very helpful in answering all of the questions visitors had.
After a quick break for lunch, the group traveled to the International School of the Americas, a favorite destination of our IVLP delegations. Principal Magadance welcomed them to learn more about their curriculum which heavily emphasizes social awareness, civic education, and student community service. These efforts in myriad forms really impressed the visitors, especially meeting with students to discuss the specific impact these projects had had on them.
This concluded their appointments for Friday, but over the weekend, the group was happy to see the sights of San Antonio and even travel to the Polish Heritage Center at Panna Maria where the local Polish community graciously welcomed them for mass, lunch, and a warm reception.
On Monday, appointments resumed in the afternoon with a meeting at Trinity University with Dr. Aaron Delwiche. His expertise in media literacy was not only of great interest to the visitors but also very topical. He described the most important components of media literacy education and the methods he uses to relate these subjects to younger students. The exchange between him and the visitors showed that many struggles transcend national borders.
After that, amid on-and-off rain, the visitors went to Haven for Hope to learn about their THRIVE Youth Center and the ways in which they serve youth and provide community service opportunities for young people. After touring the campus, the group was also able to participate in a community service project.
They ended the day with a later appointment at SAY SÍ. The youth arts program which has impressed previous visitors continued to show off their impressive work to our Polish delegation. The visitors were most impressed by their conversations with students and the chance to learn more about how the arts programs offered by SAY SÍ have impacted them.
That, unfortunately, concluded the programming for this program, but through their diverse appointments, they were afforded a variety of perspectives on engaging youth with their community and society.