by Jonathan M. Calabretta
I never thought I could present a program at ACPA.
My first ACPA convention was 2009 in Washington, D.C., and – as an eager grad student – I signed up for a pre-convention experiential program. The program involved attendees going to a space that serves the homeless, and included faculty speaking to social justice education, and our doing the work we learned about in partnership with the community. I was in awe and incredibly humbled. The facilitators, the fellow attendees, the opportunity to learn the work and do the work all at once? It was remarkable. I had found a community of individuals that fed my passion for social justice education and inspired me to think about my professional practice in different ways. But, I still never thought I could present a program at ACPA.
I worked at a small, regional, liberal arts college, affiliated with the West Virginia state system (Go Shepherd!), and many of my students were commuters, first generation students, and worked jobs in addition to going to college. As an undergrad, I loved my experiences doing Alternative Spring Break trips to rural parts of America with fellow college students. But, as a grad student, I realized that time away from home, work, and other responsibilities were luxuries for some, not for all. “How do I best serve these students a quality social justice experience?” So, with an English faculty member, we did our college’s first “Local Alternative Spring Break.” Habitat for Humanity had a local presence, and we recruited students with the promise that for their spring break – the time they would normally be in class, they could spend doing service to the local community. Join us when you are able, leave when you need to, and be ready to get dirty from labor. It worked. My mentor, Dr. Richie Stevens, thought, maybe, I could present a program at ACPA?
At ACPA 2010 in Boston, the English faculty member and I co-presented a sponsored program by the Commission for Commuter Students and Adult Learners. That experiential program I attended in 2009 lit a spark in me, and I am confident the folks who attended our session had a spark lit for them. Our program covered theoretical supports, logistics, and even the “how to get faculty on board” piece. It is an hour of my life I will remain forever proud of – I presented a program at ACPA!
As we return to Boston in 2019, and you, reading this, think, “What program could I possibly propose?” Ask yourself, “Have I answered a question others may have?” For me, that question was “How do I serve my commuter students a quality social justice experience when the time they have is so limited and precious?” Certainly, there is another ACPA member who has the same question as you do, but does not yet have your answer. ACPA is a community of learners, and you can help us learn. Perhaps you, too, can present a program at ACPA?