Intercommunity Work Connects International Cultures

A Wagner campus shuttles arrives every Monday at 2:40 p.m. to take Kathryn Wakeman, Olivia Weiss, Tina Truong, and Leeanne Zotynia from Learning Community 7 to Make the Road New York, a program that helps build the power of Latino and working class communities through organizing, policy innovation, survival services, and transformative education.

A freshman Theatre Design, Technology, and Management Major, Wakeman reports to the Port Richmond community to help children of immigrant families in the Make the Road New York afterschool program.

In a Port Richmond classroom ten minutes away by shuttle with walls adorned by students’ artwork, Wakeman often keeps the children focused and works with second grader and aspiring teacher Estella Ramirez on her times tables. “The kids come into a classroom that we are in, and they pull out their homework.” Wakeman says.We give them any help that they need, typically it is reading, spelling, and math.” Speaking in both English and Spanish, Wakeman also helps David, a young boy who knows no English on capitalization with Estella’s help. “We go in, take the kids into a classroom, and sit with them and ask if they have any questions, “ says Kathryn.

“I think it’s nice to know the different cultures,” Wakeman says, “because we go to school in a very privileged environment, and you only get to interact with a certain group of people who have similar upbringing, many people never had to struggle learning a different language.”

Dr. Margarita Sanchez and Dr. Alexa Dietrich of Learning Community 7 have created and participated in programs that support the Spanish speaking community on Staten Island. “The afterschool program is mostly devoted to Latin American kids and children of immigrants,” says Dr. Sanchez. “In some cases the parents have the language barrier and can’t help with the homework, so the children come to Make the Road New York.”

The second program Dr. Sanchez shared is the reunification of migrant families. “In Port Richmond, there’s a community of people who come from the same town in Mexico City, San Jerónimo.” Those who do not have the proper documents cannot see their families, so for three years, the reunification program with the support of Wagner has been bringing in family members with the proper documentation from Mexico. Yearly, they hold a carnival and a panel at Wagner College.

It’s no wonder why Wagner College’s curriculum has been lauded by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, The Washington Center for Learning and Time Magazine as 85% of Wagner’s first year students participate in community-based projects. Wagner students truly “learn by doing”.

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