Grow Your Own Collaborative Education Program Launches

Teacher Education Students Join Forces with Beacon City School District

One of Marist College’s strongest academic programs is teacher education. Students with a passion for teaching different subjects and age groups can thrive in such a diverse and intense program of study. Those that choose to pursue this major are effective as classroom teachers because the education department is constantly expanding and evolving, looking for ways to best prepare students for a teaching career.

The Grow Your Own program is a more recent addition to the education program. Grow Your Own is a new collaboration with the Beacon City School District and benefits both Marist education students and high school students in the district. The Marist students get first-hand experience in their career field, while the high schoolers develop the tools necessary to succeed in higher education and explore the field of teaching as a career possibility.

Although Grow Your Own is a relatively new partnership, the education department has many plans for its future.

First, the Grow Your Own program will organize monthly activities for the participating high school students, at their Beacon schools. These activities will educate them on their potential future as teachers, and hopefully, spark their interest in such a career.

Then, once a year, the program will culminate in a field trip to the Marist College campus, where the Beacon students will get a closer look into college life, particularly of education majors. They will have the chance to interact with Marist education students, as they spend the day together and shadow their education classes. This exposure to college life will also include a tour of the campus, a meal in the student union and a visit to the dorms. Those interested in applying to Marist can also learn more about the admissions process.

Per their own request, the Beacon students will also get the chance to present a lesson to available education classes. They came up with this concept and will come up with the lessons on their own, before receiving feedback from Marist students and professors.

“I think that part is quite unique and we are pleased that it came from the Beacon students,” says the Associate Dean of Teacher Education, Professor Edward Sullivan.

Professor Sullivan believes that “students should be college or career ready by the time they graduate from high school,” and the Grow Your Own program helps to achieve that. The whole experience will really improve the futures of these high school students, in more ways than one.

The program will first motivate students to finish high school, then to apply to college, to consider Marist, and even consider registering for the teacher education program at Marist. In addition, the education program hopes to also offer scholarships to students from underrepresented groups.

The education department has found that only 12 percent of their own students come from underrepresented groups, which are based on race, ethnicity, disabilities, health concerns, and sexuality. In comparison, 43 percent of students in the United States between kindergarten and twelfth grade come from these groups.

In order to address this disparity, and improve the numbers of diverse students in the teacher education program, the department established Grow Your Own. “We thought that this Grow Your Own movement might be effective to recruit and retain students in underrepresented groups, who are currently in high school and might be thinking of becoming a teacher,” says Professor Sullivan.

Of course, the program works both ways, since Marist students will gain significant experience working in urban classrooms. In addition to assisting with the trip to Marist, some teacher education students will travel to the Beacon City schools. There, they will present lessons, answer questions about college life, and volunteer as tutors for college readiness skills.

Professor Sullivan explains that “any involvement that our teacher education students have in working with other students will help them to develop their awareness of social justice and also their responsibility to be good role models for those in high school.”

At this point in its development, the Grow Your Own program extends to 21 ninth and tenth-grade students in the Beacon City School District. However, its influence will not stop there. Marist hopes to continue to expand one grade at a time, every year, for the next few years, until every grade has a chance to participate. They also hope to eventually include more school districts in the program.

“Right now, we just want to capture them early and hope they will continue,” explains Professor Sullivan, “we don’t want to grow too fast, but in a thoughtful way.”

Written by Sarah Gabrielli '18


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