Spring 2014 Representative Sylvester Turner's Awardees

Maria Bhattacharjee and Christal Burnett

Dr. Maria Bhattacharjee and Dr. Christal Burnett have been awarded Turner funds for Community Engagement. Their project Preparing Pre-Service Teachers for Bilingual Classroom will be completed in partnership with Crockett Elementary in HISD. UHD teacher candidates enrolled in READ 3317-Bilingual/ESL Language Arts and PED 3314- Children's literature in Spanish will participate in literacy development activities with children at Crockett Elementary. Students in PED 3314 will develop electronic books and activities based on the school assessment measurements given to the kindergarten throughout the year in reading and writing. Teacher candidates enrolled in READ 3317 will use the storybooks and electronic activities to teach reading and writing in the content areas to kindergarteners. Students in PED and READ will have the opportunity to use knowledge from their course in practical applications in the field, while gaining experience that will enhance their teacher preparation. UHD students will better understand the importance of using the knowledge that they are getting in the class to impact their community. Both groups will play a role in enhancing the bilingual literacy skills that are critical for elementary children to experience success in their school careers. Preparation in this project aids in the formation of well-prepared bilingual teachers of which districts in the greater Houston area and at the state level are facing a critical shortage. The UHD professors, students, Crockett teachers, students and their families will all benefit from this project.

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Vida Robertson

Dr. Vida Robertson has been awarded Turner funds for Community Engagement in support of a HISD Summer Reading Program. The project enables our UHD students to conduct and facilitate book discussions with participating high school students in the HISD Summer Reading Program. Students will discuss A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines, the selected text for the 2014 UHD Common Reader. Placing UHD students in the role of teacher/facilitator will enrich their learning and provide critical thinking, organizing and leadership skills to prepare them for the 21st century workforce and community engagement. Through discussion, UHD students will encourage HISD students to think critically about individual choices in relation to one’s commitment to their respective community or mutual humanity. The initiative will foster civic responsibility by helping UHD students understand how to use their valuable critical thinking, reading and writing skills to contribute to the betterment of their communities. The community engagement component will enhance UHD student’s awareness of the power and humanitarian utility of a college education.

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Mary Joe Parker

Dr. Mary Joe Parker has been awarded Turner funds for Community Engagement for her project titled Connecting UHD STEM Undergraduate Leaders to the Next Generation. The purpose of her project is to provide multiple opportunities of service learning involving STEM mentoring to middle school-aged students while simultaneously providing UHD Scholars Academy (SA) STEM leaders opportunities to mentor, influence, inform, converse, and motivate first generation minority students to 1) excel academically, 2) gain a better understanding of what STEM activities can involve, 3) begin to consider UHD as their possible school of first choice. This service project will be accomplished over the course of one semester during spring 2014 by new transfer SA members enrolled in the College Success Program (CSP) course. Service learning in the CSP course is accomplished by empowering new UHD transfer undergraduates to embrace the importance of partnering with the community on their own academic journey. All members of the SA groups will learn/practice leadership skills as well as gain an understanding of the importance of service to others through STEM.

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Poonam Gulati

Dr. Poonam Gulati has been awarded Turner funds for Community Engagement for her General Microbiology Project. UHD students enrolled in General Microbiology will have a “Science Corner” in Dateline Downtown, the student-run newspaper of UHD where they will showcase articles they have written. This opportunity will inform the UHD community and in turn their friends and families about interesting and relevant societal issues involving microbes. As a class the group will also select two topics that will be used in a brochure and distributed to Community Centers of the Neighborhood Centers Organization, which will be in English and Spanish. The class will engage in activities that will serve the community. Through their newspaper articles and brochures, they will impart their scientific expertise to community members. The experience will help UHD students form the realization that they possess the skills to contribute to society and garner a sense of civic responsibility. By visiting the community centers they will gain an appreciation of the needs in the community, and how they can become better engaged citizens in society.

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