Urban Education club lends a hand to low-income students

Since the pandemic, learning has only become more difficult for students attending urban and low-income schools. The Urban Education club at Liberty University strives to help where it can in local public schools, along with support from the Student Government Association (SGA) and Beacon of Hope Church. 

“We have our meetings open to all education students or anyone who would be interested during the first hour. We have guest speakers often and activities — we did a poverty simulation last week, and the week before (we) had a social worker come and talk,” Madelyn Junker, one of the co-presidents of the club, said.

Junker explained how the second half of the meetings is for members only, where they collaborate and study one book each semester. 

“We usually pick a theme — poverty, trauma, diversity, race, classroom management — any of those things,” Junker said. 

Once the topic and book are selected, members analyze  the content and break into small groups to discuss what they read. 

Junior elementary education major and former member of the club, Natalia Mendez, enjoyed diving into different subjects and hearing from various speakers and believes it has prepared her for a future in education.

“I enjoyed being able to have different speakers come in and discuss the topic that would be the focus of the semester,” Mendez said. “I think it prepares me to be able to understand ways to deal with different types of urban school environments and the challenges that can come from that.” 

Aside from attending meetings, members of the Urban Education club also participate in community enrichment, such as a practicum in Lynchburg city schools. However, Junker explained that due to the pandemic, not as many schools hold practicum anymore, so the club has partnered with Beacon of Hope Church. This church has a “Kids to College” program where volunteers teach elementary students about college. 

In addition to educating young students on college, the “Kids to College” program also offers scholarships as a resource for students who want to go to an academy or trade school. 

After participating in the club for over a year, Junker said, “I feel so much more prepared for wherever I go, whether it be an urban, rural, private or public school.”

Junker said one of the reasons she initially joined the club was because she grew up in a very rural area, and wanted to help bridge the gap she saw firsthand in the education system. She described some of the significant issues the public schools are currently facing.

“The biggest (issue in the public school system), which is the elephant in the room, is Covid, unfortunately,” Junker said. “With all that, you (have) so many gaps in the learning because learning either stopped or was poorly executed (during the pandemic).”

She continued to explain how students didn’t have access to technology or reliable resources, and teachers were not prepared to use the available technology, causing students to fall behind. Junker also shared how there are many teacher shortages and barriers for schools. 

One thing Junker said the club hopes to see in the future is an increase in members, as well as more opportunities to help urban schools outside of Lynchburg. Specifically, she mentioned how the club used to go on trips to urban communities in Washington D.C., and hopes that tradition will continue in the future. 

Information on the Urban Education Club is available on its Instagram.

Nichols is a feature reporter for the Liberty Champion

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