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Increase the Peace Project: Salinas Youth, Families, and Schools Building Peace Together
Supported by the SURDNA Foundation (Andrus family philanthropic organization), the Increase the Peace Project: Salinas Youth, Families, and Schools Building Peace Together is a collaboration of California State University, Monterey Bay; El Sausal Middle School in Salinas; and a community after-school program.
This culturally relevant arts and literature curriculum was designed to increase student persistence and graduation, thereby decreasing gang violence in East Salinas. During a period of escalating violence in the community and declining arts funding, this project offered middle school students positive avenues of expression and included research to assess its impact.
A CSUMB faculty member with expertise in young adult literature taught language arts weekly at El Sausal and mentored the middle school teachers. At the community after-school program in Camphora and Jimenez labor camps, another faculty member brought together CSUMB service learners (SLs) and children through video and arts projects.
SLs from cultural and class backgrounds similar to the younger students’—some having once attended El Sausal themselves—successfully applied their experience in creative piñata activities and filmmaking projects with the children. They served as role models and were privileged to see the youngsters’ growth as it occurred, creating a close bond between the groups. It was as though the older students had insights into where they had come from, and the younger ones could see their own possible future.
In keeping with the project goal to document its impact on the middle school and CSUMB participants, the community partners designed and implemented the curriculum, and teachers undertook the collection and first interpretation of student writing and art work.
Through interviews with students and teachers, analysis of student artwork, and of teachers’ and administrators’ reflections and interviews, it was clear that a cultural shift had begun in the school. One measure is the larger number of El Sausal students now curious about college. The investment of faculty and SL time, a richly creative and relevant curriculum, and a supportive infrastructure have contributed to the project’s success.
The partners will share the results with decision makers in the city of Salinas and its residents. Another significant measure of progress is El Sausal students’ eagerness to show the community who they are and what they have learned. This project won CSUMB’s 2010 “Marian Penn Partnership” Award Winner
Miguel López, Liberal Studies
California State University, Monterey Bay
Deborah Burke and Pam Motoike, California State University, Monterey Bay
Gloria Loera, El Sausal Middle School
Keywords: middle school, after school programs, teacher education, public policy, arts, literature, access to higher education