SAJE Fellowship Welcomes First Cohort of Aspiring Educators to Arcadia
By John Stuetz ’20M
The Social Action and Justice Education (SAJE) Fellowship will welcome nine aspiring educators of color to the Arcadia community this fall. The fellowship will provide preparatory programs and leadership training for SAJE fellows to teach in culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms—aiming to address the nationwide shortage of educators of color and recruit and retain fellows who lead schools, programs, and educational opportunities geared toward diversity, equity, and social justice.
Dr. Marc Brasof, associate professor of Education and Director of Secondary Social Studies and English Education, is spearheading the SAJE Fellowship along with Dr. Priscilla Jeter-Iles, director of the Field Experiences and Outreach Office. The special admission program is being supported by the 2020-23 Rosemary and Walter Blankley Endowed Chair in Education, which Dr. Brasof has received.
In addition to receiving scholarships, SAJE fellows will work closely with academic advisers, take courses on cultural competency and social justice, engage in educational leadership opportunities and fieldwork, and be guaranteed job interviews and career placement advantages in the School District of Philadelphia. Intergenerational peer mentorship and affinity groups have also been set up with campus leaders of color to engage in conversations around race. The cohort watched “Teach Us All,” a documentary about segregated schools, in a virtual watch party this summer.
The nine SAJE fellows are:
- Jakya Barnhill ’24, who will be dual majoring in English;
- Audrey Chin ’24, who will be dual majoring in Mathematics;
- Adriana Colon ’24, who will be dual majoring in English;
- Amani Harris ’24, who will be dual majoring in History;
- Ashelle Henderson ’24, who will be dual majoring in Mathematics;
- Karoline Lopez ’24, who will be dual majoring in Sociology;
- Hardika Patel ’24, who will be dual majoring in English;
- Emily Rodriguez ’24, who will be dual majoring in History; and
- Emily Wingfield ’22, who will be dual majoring in History.
Finding Their Calling
Each SAJE fellow enters Arcadia with a similar vision for their future; yet, their upbringings and reasons for pursuing the field of multicultural education range.
Lopez, a graduate of Northeast High School, cannot pinpoint the exact moment that sparked her interest in the field of education, but she is certain she sees herself in a position that promotes diversity and individuality.
“I strongly believe in empowering the youth, and there is no doubt that future generations from now will create historical impacts from small to bigger communities worldwide,” Lopez said. “As a part of a generation that is willing to influence positive change in society, a career in education will continue to promote this idea, which will further [lead to] endless possibilities.”
Barnhill credits Cristo Rey High School with providing her the outlet she needed to express herself, teaching her “how to invest in my future with my actions in the present.” She added that she was so involved in her school community that her mother would often tell her that she “practically lived at school.”
“I would start my school day at 7:55 a.m., and most days I would not get home until about 6 p.m.,” Barnhill said. “I find it important to be involved in my school community, which has helped me make a huge impact on teachers and peers.”
Chin said her experiences tutoring friends at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School spurred her interest in becoming an educator.
“There’s an indescribable feeling that occurs when a light bulb goes off in their head,” Chin said. “Furthermore, I believe that the education system acts as the foundation for many people’s lives. Thus, I want to help provide the best foundation for future students, aiding the next generation to be confident and successful individuals.”
The nine incoming students heard about the new SAJE Fellowship in different ways, with several learning of the program through high school counselors while applying to colleges for the first time.
Wingfield, however, learned about the fellowship only after two years studying at the University of Pittsburgh when she expressed interest in transferring. Wingfield said she sees the SAJE Fellowship as the best path to accomplishing her future goals.
“Education is incredibly important in paving the way for new opportunities, but unfortunately, high-quality education that can nurture this opportunity is not available to all,” Wingfield said of her interest in SAJE’s mission. “Through my work in the education sector, I hope to address not only this injustice but all injustices in society.”
Patel, a graduate of Central Bucks High School South, said she similarly applied to SAJE because of the potential for long-term impact in a multicultural environment.
“[A factor] that contributed to my interest in pursuing a career through this fellowship is that I could mentor diverse students to foster their success in the classroom and in the outside world,” Patel said.
Meanwhile, several SAJE fellows placed their interest in multicultural education in the context of this tumultuous year in America, marked both by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as renewed awareness and focus on the systemic racism that has long existed here following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other people of color at the hands of law enforcement officers.
“I remember in my fifth grade year when Trayvon Martin [died]. Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Eric Garner…especially after the court hearings, I cried about a few of those situations,” said Harris, a graduate of Northeast High School. “It seemed like after that, people tried to move past it. I wasn’t expecting situations to happen like they happened again recently.”
Chin explained that she wants to diversify the nationwide pool of educators so she can be a model to students of color who wish to enter the field of education but may be hesitant to do so due to the lack of representation.
“We are once more calling for much needed change in our society,” Chin said, “and I am confident that this generation will be able to persevere in this fight for equality.”