Ian Hnizdo and Pooja Kar, now juniors, met their first semester as freshmen. Hnizdo lived on Long Island his entire life; Kar had recently arrived from Bangladesh. Both joined the Levermore Global Scholars program and enrolled in one of the LGS freshman seminars: Our Children, Peace and Violence. They found common ground in their desire to tackle pressing issues and make a difference. Under the tutelage of their professor, Devin Thornburg, Ph.D., professor and department chair of the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education, Hnizdo was soon chauffeuring them to the Hempstead to tutor kids in the P.E.A.C.E. (Partnerships in Education to Avoid Criminal justice system Entry) Afterschool Program.
Despite Hnizdo’s and Kar’s very different backgrounds, both were enriched by the experience. In fact, Hnizdo so enjoyed working with the kids that he continued volunteering during the spring semester and over the summer.
He said it was eye opening to see the challenges low-income children and their families face. “But kids are kids,” he said. “I grew as a person, I met people I wouldn’t have ordinarily and it broadened my perspective of the world.” On a lighter note, he added, “And I got really good at finding parking spots.”
This freshman seminar is just one of the classes that get students—right from the get-go—putting a topic into its real-world context and taking action. “The philosophic stance I take is that high-impact learning around community action is what should occur in college,” Dr. Thornburg said.
A recent crop of freshmen agreed. “I’m so glad Dr. T’s seminar was one of the first classes I took to start off my college career,” said Jasmine Garcia. “Not only was the material interesting and thought provoking, but the way he presented these issues encouraged us to share our ideas and viewpoints while always maintaining an open mind. Dr. T put a lot of effort into making sure his classroom was an open environment that fed on curiosity and new ideas. He went out of his way to learn more about his students and encouraged any passions we had.”
Dr. Thornburg started the course in 2008. In class, students learn about the history of childhood, art of children over the centuries, theories of violence and aggression in kids, education, and topics involving children in some element of violence, such as trafficking, child soldiers or domestic violence.
The focus changes each year according to student input. In Fall 2016, students tackled the issue of human trafficking. “New York is a hot zone, and it affects mostly children under the age of 18,” Dr. Thornburg said. Students partnered with the local group Love 146 to host an event in December called the “Human Trafficking Awareness Symposium.” The event featured the art of students Esther Wolf and Neha Harish, and Charles Hager showed a PowerPoint presentation about the “human trafficking problem and ways individuals can make a difference,” he said.
Alina Campbell said the class was her “hands-down favorite of the semester,” one in which “you were working with your peers to tackle important issues close to your heart.” Her takeaway, she added, is that “it is not enough to simply discuss what needs to be done, but that we as global citizens have the responsibility of taking that extra step to actually do it.”
Levermore Global Scholars
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