(Re)presenting for the Next Generation
I was recently in contact with Robert Garcia, Outreach and Teams Coordinator for Pass the Torch, and I was pleased to learn about their one-on-one study team model that serves underrepresented student populations. Garcia is also the artist whose Chavez portrait I posted a few months back, and I was glad to hear about the Pass the Torch program because it reminds me of the New Start program at the U of A that is near and dear to me.
From the Pass the Torch website:
"Pass The Torch respects each student’s individuality. Our students come from a wide variety of economic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. They work together in teams to strive for the highest possible grade for each individual member. Our primary goals are to see that every student in Pass The Torch has the opportunity of success regardless of his or her past educational experiences."
Issues of representation and identity come to mind because role models are important for students to help them envision success in school. If there aren't people with whom they can identify, and who have shared culture and experience, then it's much easier for a student to believe in negative discourses that portray minority students in unflattering lights. The metaphor of passing the torch is especially profound given that knowledge has been represented by fire, bringing enlightenment, perhaps as far back as Plato's allegory of the cave. The symbolism of passing knowledge within diverse ethnic communities, who can feel marginalized by large institutions, is also poignant in re-presenting not only a concern for education within these communities, but also an emphasis on individuals giving back to the community.
You can see more from Robert Garcia at http://www.bavigarcia.com/