Twenty Bay Path students and their professor, Dr. John Jarvis, were honored at Holyoke City Hall Wednesday night, April 24, for “Social Justice Community Work” at the Paulo Freire 2019 Gala Benefit and Social Justice Awards Ceremony. The award was based upon five years of collaboration between Bay Path University and Paulo Freire Charter School for Social Justice (PFSJ) on projects as varied as after-school tutoring, grant writing, creating a reading room, running food drives, beautifying the school through artwork, and conducting a student-focused book writing workshop. This last project resulted in a published student book, Butterfly Dreams; Stormy Realities (Lulu Press, 2018) that shares both the daunting life challenges and the strength to overcome those challenges of the Paulo Freire School students.
With many Paulo Freire School students facing food scarcity and crowded living conditions or homelessness, and with one hundred percent of students qualifying for free lunch, the work the Bay Path Students complete is critical to the students’ success. When teachers reported that some students were coming to school on Monday mornings shaking from hunger, PSFJ School Dean Rhonda Soto knew that they had to do even more. The School started “Paulo’s Pantry” to collect and send boxes of food home to feed the families of the neediest children on weekends. Bay Path students secured appliances and storage cabinets for the food pantry and run regular food and funding drives to support the pantry year after year.
To date, 164 Bay Path students have partnered with Dean Soto and her staff to carry out social justice projects as part of the capstone course in Bay Path’s Women as Educated Learners and Leaders (WELL) Program. Krystal Duncan, a member of the first class to launch the partnership in the spring of 2015, stated, “I felt a shift in myself after the experience of helping PFSJ. I became more empathetic and compassionate. I began to seek out stories of people in the community. I felt more of a connection and felt as if I had a better understanding of my community.”
“Dr. Jarvis has lead his students to deep understanding of issues of social justice, globally and locally, and helped them transform to truly empowered learners and leaders,” shared Dr. Kristine Barnett, Bay Path’s Vice Provost for Academic Affairs. “He and his students have leveraged their knowledge, passions, and commitment to advocacy to support the goals of the Paolo Freire Charter School for Social Justice and to have a deep and meaningful impact in the larger community that Bay Path serves.”