As this semester comes to an end, I find myself asking a couple of questions:
The Neighborhood House of Milwaukee was established in 1945 as a community center for neighborhood families in West Milwaukee.
It has grown in mission and vision over the years, and now provides services to a diverse population through the main center, as well as the Nature Center, International Learning Center, and Safe Place at Story School. These centers offer programs for youth from early childhood until 19 years of age including childcare, after school homework help and recreation, sports, and leadership activities.
The International Learning Center (ILC) focuses on providing literacy services for families, many of which are first- or second-generation immigrants. They hold classes on literacy, language, and citizenship for youth as well as for adults. They are dedicated to guide immigrants and refugees through the transition of being self-sufficient in Milwaukee.
For the community members of the ILC, “sufficiency means gaining the language, life and social skills needed to attain citizenship, participate in the Milwaukee community, access community resources, and support the healthy social and academic development of their children" (ILC page). While the ILC celebrates and supports immigrants, they also seem to recognize and understand the idea of citizenship as belonging in America.
The ILC is dedicated to giving its members courses in math and computer skills as well as job readiness, so that members can not only earn education but also earn a living. The center also hosts an on-site preschool as well as childcare during these adult classes.
This is only one of the Neighborhood House locations, but this one location embodies much of what we’ve discussed this semester, including the complexities of brokering languages and the immigrant bargain (Alvarez, Brokering Tareas), the complicated feeling of citizenship as belonging (Young, Minor Re/Visions) and the value of knowledge from community sites of learning (Paris & Alim, Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies).
The ILC is striving to do much of what we’ve studied in this course. It provides opportunities for both kids and adults to forward their education and economic status, while not diminishing their home cultures, languages, and literacies. Their website shows past celebratory events for immigrants, refugees, and all members of Neighborhood House to deepen feelings of community.
This community space is one of belonging, acceptance, and learning. It is a great place for students – many of whom are local community members – to get involved and be a part of creating literacies, language practices, and knowledge outside of the classroom.
Students might choose Neighborhood House for their academic service learning option for certain classes they are involved in. However, any UWM student can apply to be a volunteer in various capacities, depending on their skills, qualifications, and interests:
By volunteering at Neighborhood House, students could actively learn from and contribute to their local community. Engaging in a community is about building respectful relationships, co-creating knowledge, and sharing life together. There is much to be gained from - and shared with - our local communities surrounding UWM.
~ DK ~