Global issues on a local scale

Political science majors Kathryne Doria (’13) and Tamara Guillen (’12) witnessed first-hand how global issues shape local communities in Winston-Salem when they took Latino Political Behavior and Public Opinion, taught by assistant political science professor Betina Wilkinson in the fall semester. Recently the Institute for Public Engagement’s Friends and Fellows luncheon series gave Doria and Guillen a forum to tell faculty about what they’d learned through the course’s service learning component.

“I took Dr. Wilkinson’s classes because I’m really interested in race relations and how they play out in our society,” said Doria.   “Last semester, for Latino Political Behavior and Public Opinion, I worked with El Buen Pastor, a Latino community organization that provides after school tutoring. I am continuing my time as a tutor this semester for Dr. Wilkinson’s class, ‘Racial and Ethnic Politics.'”

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Doria, who tutored four second-grade girls in the fall, wondered at first how the theoretical and intellectual lessons taught in the classrooms would relate to the experiences of six and seven year olds.

But, as the girls became increasingly comfortable with Doria, they revealed more and more about their family and personal lives and connections to course readings emerged. One little girl, who spoke frequently about the crowded conditions in the trailer she shared with fifteen others, offered Doria a glimpse into a reality behind the demographic data in her textbooks.

More about El Buen Pastor

“We really value our multi-faceted relationship with the university,” says Mary Bolton (’82), Executive Director of El Buen Pastor Latino Community Services.

In any given semester upward of 80 undergraduates and graduate students tutor in the non-profit’s thriving after school program.   Even a number of Wake Forest professors have volunteered.

“El Buen Pastor was formed as a 501c3 nonprofit in 2006,” said Bolton, “but we began our tutoring programs here at El Buen Pastor Church in 2003. Students from Wake Forest have tutored with us since 2005.

“This spring the men’s soccer team has come to give skills clinics, and our families receive deliveries of rescued produce from Campus Kitchen twice weekly. Our kids look forward to Project Pumpkin every fall.”

The interconnections between Wake Forest and El Buen Pastor, which recently was awarded a prestigious Kellogg Foundation grant to expand its educational mission in the preschool years, are deep as well as many.

Candelas S. Gala, Charles E. Taylor Professor of Romance Languages and Norma-May Isakow, Associate Director of the Institute for Public Engagement are both on our Board of Directors, as is Molly Lineberger WF alum (1982) and parent (2015). Our Director of Family Life Programs Enrique Rodriguez-Pastor received a MA from the Counseling program (2008).”

“By the way, adds Bolton, “I am an alum (1974) and Wake Forest parent (2010).”

“She has four brothers, two sisters and lives with both her parents as well as some extended family members,” said Doria.  “While she talked often about how congested her home was, she also expressed how close she and her family are. For instance, just before her nephew’s first birthday, she told me how excited she was that her mom was going to teach her how to cook tamales for the celebration. The preparation of tamales was a very big honor for her and she discussed it proudly.”

Wilkinson’s Latino Political Behavior and Public Opinion focuses on the Latino immigrant experience in the U.S. over several generations. “We examine the socio-economic struggles and the political struggles,” said Wilkinson. “We ask how political identity develops. What about coalition behavior? What brings members of a minority group together or impedes unity?”

“My experiences at El Buen Pastor have illuminated the topics and themes in class discussion and readings,” said Doria. “For example, in class we discussed the importance of forming a pan-ethnic identity among all Latinos, because their divergent and various origins often create separations rather than unity.”

A sense of shared identity is critical for the formation of a minority’s political identity and voice.  Yet, Doria observed, at El Buen Pastor, even at a young age, “students make distinctions among those who are from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and other countries.”

Doria concluded by saying, “El Buen Pastor has also illustrated for me the great importance of a quality education within a child’s life. All the students at El Buen Pastor are English-as-second language (ESL) students and it has been an invaluable experience to watch these students balance their multiple linguistic identities. Through their struggles and successes, I have really seen how important it is to foster bilingual educational programs, especially with the great influx of Latino immigrants to our nation.”

Tamara Guillen, who chose the organization CHANGE (Communities Helping All Neighbors Gain Empowerment) for her service learning experience, was just as enthusiastic about Wilkinson’s course.

“I chose the Latino Political Behavior and Public Opinion for two main reasons. First, the course intrigued me. Secondly, I am Latina and I felt as if the topic could be relevant to me. Just by reading the title of the course, I was immediately excited to take it.”

Friends and Fellows Luncheon

The next Friends and Fellows Luncheon is Monday, March 26, in Reynolda 301. The program features professors Michele Gillespie (History), Adam Friedman (Education), Andrew Allwine (Classics -Latin poetry). The topic is “Assessment in Engaged Teaching.”

The purpose of this discussion series is to afford faculty the opportunity to share their ideas and gain inspiration for engaged teaching in an enjoyable, informal setting. Faculty are invited to enjoy lunch, highlight their work, share ideas, and gain inspiration. Featured faculty will speak for about 20 minutes followed by open conversation.

Last year the Latino Caucus, which operates under the auspice of CHANGE, successfully campaigned for the Caucus membership card to be recognized as a valid form of identification by local police.  Guillen participated in a membership drive to get more of these valid IDs into the hands of local immigrants. Going door to door, she also participated in an outreach campaign to parents in the North Hill Elementary district, where 99.6% of the students have reduced or free lunch.

“I love working with the Latino community,” said Guillen. “So, I was eager to volunteer to help out on the neighborhood walks as well as the identification card drive. I have volunteered before with El Buen Pastor. I wanted to work with CHANGE to get a new experience —  to interact with adult Latinos.  I wanted to be able to compare the thoughts and feeling of Latinos in Winston Salem to those we read about in our textbook.”

“I would recommend all students to take a service-learning class,” urged Guillen. “It was a great experience and enhanced my understanding of the course and of the Winston-Salem community.”

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