Fairfield's Ubuntu Academy Expands – and Succeeds – in Summer's New Digital Space

Fairfield's Ubuntu Academy Expands – and Succeeds – in Summer's New Digital Space

Virtual CWP During Covid-19

This summer, the Connecticut Writing Project (CWP) at Fairfield University switched its annual Ubuntu Academy to a virtual format and hosted more than 170 students for a successful series of writing workshops.

"It was also amazing to us that 100 percent of participants (more than 170 kids in all programs) ranked the summer programs 4 to 5 out of 5, and stated they loved learning online.”

— Director of the Connecticut Writing Project Fairfield and Associate Professor Bryan Ripley Crandall, PhD

Ubuntu Academy, a partnership between the Connecticut Writing Project (CWP), Bridgeport Public Schools, and Fairfield University’s Refugee Youth Mentoring Program, showed no sign of slowing down this summer despite the Covid-19 pandemic. As one of several literacy labs serving hundreds of Connecticut youth, Ubuntu Academy is part of a larger program that brings students of mixed backgrounds together. 

Bryan Ripley Crandall, PhD, director of the Connecticut Writing Project Fairfield and associate professor in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions (GSEAP), worked alongside GSEAP graduates William King MA'16 and Jessica Baldizon MA’15, to transition their award-winning Ubuntu Academy program onto Zoom and Google platforms.

As the pandemic forced students toward simulated learning, the Ubuntu Academy team consulted with national directors from several states to provide the most exciting and innovative summer opportunity for aspiring writers and English language learners that they could. Daily, the team took to their newly created virtual space to conduct meaningful academic exercises and creatively stimulating activities during their summer writing workshops.

“Instructors do as they’ve always done: educate, entertain, model, and coach," said Dr. Crandall. "They are dedicated to the success of all writers! …Ubuntu Academy instructors are simply amazing.”

Literally meaning, “I am, because we are," Ubuntu, a South African philosophy for togetherness and collaboration, celebrates community and an individual’s role with other human beings. Students attending Ubuntu Academy for immigrant and refugee youth are granted scholarships and equipped with materials in order to attain meaningful hands-on experience. With a mix of individual writing pieces, collaborative poetry practice, and group reading, students continue to virtually enrich themselves in the company of one another. Teachers Jessica Baldizon and William King said that they made literacy drop-offs of books to students at their homes, and used digital spaces for building vocabulary, collaborating, and teaching.

Dr. Crandall shared, “A writer is a writer only in the company of other writers. We work hard to help young people to feel part of their own writing community and to trust one another for feedback, ideas, support, and collaboration. We like to be 100 percent successful with all kids, so teambuilding, playing, and creativity are central so that all kids feel part of a larger community.

"Because we were digital, young people from other locations could participate. It was also amazing to us that 100 percent of participants (more than 170 kids in all programs) ranked the summer programs 4 to 5 out of 5, and stated they loved learning online.”

Tags:  Top Stories,  GSEAP

Last modified: 08-21-20 10:31 AM

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