Student News

SNCAE creates partnership with local middle school

With the goal of connecting college students with high-needs community schools and teachers, the School of Education’s chapter of SNCAE (the Student North Carolina Association of Educators) has created a partnership with W.G. Pearson Magnet Middle School in Durham, N.C. The SNCAE includes education majors as well as other Carolina undergraduates who are interested in educational issues.

“We wanted to offer meaningful engagement opportunities for students who are interested in social justice and community service,” said Ramona Cox, coordinator of teacher recruitment and retention for the School of Education, who worked with the students to establish the partnership. “Projects like these expose college students to the teaching profession—both education majors and other students who are interested in educational issues but might not have decided that they want to be teachers. Our college students benefit from the experience and the middle school also benefits.”

Co-presidents of the SNCAE, Erin Burns and Kristin Hansen, affirmed the importance of the partnership. “Over the years, the local schools have given so much to the School of Education and to me as well,” said Hansen, a senior education major. “This is a small way to give back.”

The group has been working this year with the Student Council from W.G. Pearson to find out what improvements the middle school students are most passionate about. “The W.G. Pearson students really drove what happened at the school,” said Melissa Wheeler, the SNCAE advisor and academic advisor at the School of Education.  “They told us what they wanted in conversations at meetings throughout the year.”

The students decided to begin by focusing on improving the school’s physical appearance, both inside and out. W.G. Pearson is a magnet school that is less than five years old. However, it is housed in a facility built in the 1920s. The grounds include numerous dirt patches covered with broken glass and the interior has many blank walls.

On the last Friday in April, the partnership came to fruition as SNCAE members and volunteers—six total—worked with 10 students from W.G. Pearson. They removed the glass shards, added rich soil and planted flower beds in front of the school.

“Some of the students at W.G. Pearson had never planted flowers before,” commented Burns, a senior majoring in biology and earning her teaching licensure through the School of Education.  “It was great to see them learning something new and taking pride in their school.”

The middle school students said that working on the flower beds was fun and having the college students there was very helpful.

“I was able to dig up soil and make sure it was healthy, getting rocks and glass out. And I’m now in charge of watering the plants,” said Avion Jordan. “We probably wouldn’t have been able to do it without [the college students]. It was much easier because we were all able to pitch in and help.”

“It was cool to have college students helping us,” added Lucy Jayala. “It made the outside of the school look pretty, which is welcoming to new people and it makes it look like a friendly environment.”

Kerry Ivory summed up the experience by saying, “The garden really represents what we are here at W.G.: Proud Lions!” 

The other main project for the day was painting an outline for a mural in the school’s interior.

“We recruited a student from the art department at Carolina to draw an outline of the mural,” said Wheeler. In the upcoming school year, W.G. Pearson students will have the opportunity to fill in the mural outline with paint, also provided by the SNCAE.

“This is only Phase 1 of an ongoing partnership between the SNCAE and W.G. Pearson Middle School,” said Wheeler. Future plans include establishing a school store at W.G. Pearson and hosting school supply drives to fill its shelves.    

“The students at W.G. Pearson were so appreciative of this project,” said Burns.  “It’s a new magnet school and the school counselor there said she believed that this project really helped jump start their students’ and parents’ active involvement in the school.”