Thursday, November 20, 2014

The UNC Charlotte Urban Education Collaborative recently organized and convened a two-day International Conference on Urban Education (ICUE) in Montego Bay, Jamaica, for a group of about 500 educators. The theme of this year’s conference was “Building and Sustaining Global Partnerships for Learning and Development.”

Chance Lewis, founding executive director of the Urban Education Collaborative and the Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor of Urban Education at UNC Charlotte, said the conference provided an opportunity to bring together university professors, community leaders, health care professionals and other key stakeholders interested in urban education.

“The conference, designed to focus solely on urban education, was the first of its kind, nationally or internationally,” said Lewis.  Internationally, urban education is a priority, and cities around the world share some of the same challenges in educating children in urban environments: lower graduation rates, lack of sufficient funding for urban schools and access to more higher education opportunities, to mention a few. Participants came from all over the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Caribbean and South America to exchange information and find ways to improve urban education.”

UNC Charlotte’s Urban Education Collaborative is one of very few in the nation, and its mission is to be a national model of excellence for partnering with urban schools, community organizations and the business community to improve economic, educational opportunities and the quality of life for the nation’s urban students. A goal of the collaborative is to serve as a central “hub and repository” of empirically based research and other valuable resources to improve urban schools in the state of North Carolina and the nation.

The ICUE gathering included panel discussions and presentations focused on tackling challenges that impede student learning.

In addition, there were workshops about the school-to-prison pipeline, the challenges facing black males and females and the role that school counselors can play in helping children and their families access critical services.

Conference attendees also included 10 students from West Charlotte High School who applied and were selected to travel to Jamaica and present their research after a year of attending monthly Saturday sessions organized by the Urban Education Collaborative. As part of their learning, they conducted fundraising projects to purchase needed school supplies for fellow students in Jamaica.  The Urban Education Collaborative provided scholarships to enable the high school students to attend.

West Charlotte High School is located in one of the Queen City’s most troubling urban centers. For many of them, it was their first opportunity traveling outside of Charlotte and on an airplane.

The experience of personally engaging with academics at the conference sparked students’ interest in attending college and graduate school.

“To be honest, I never ever even thought it was a possibility,” one of the high school students said. “But when I look around and see that there are other people who grew up like me and they were able to become successful, I now know that anything is possible.”

UNC Charlotte’s College of Education is one of only 10 universities in the United States that offers a Ph.D. program focusing on urban education, noted Lewis, who leads the program.  For information about the program, visit Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction Urban Education Plan of Study.

Photo: Post-doctoral fellow Ayana Allen with UNC Charlotte College of Education doctoral students Nakeisha Williams, Shanitria Cuthbertson, Azure Covington, Sheikia Talley-Matthews, Tiffany Hollis and Katie Brown and Chance Lewis.