On Wednesday, October 9, 2013 something historic happened in our community. For the first time in 40 years, the faculty and staff of Roberto Clemente Community Academy took an educational walk down Paseo Boricua to learn about and become familiar with the community in which they teach. It was an incredible fall day when over 60 members of the teaching and support staff built community with each other while learning about the rich history that exists within Humboldt Park, with a strong emphasis on Paseo Boricua.
The walk began with a purpose setting conversation with Principal Marcey Sorensen. She strongly believes that it is important for the staff to understand the communities where they are teach. Without a full understanding of the activism, social service agencies, art, culture, businesses, and ultimately the vision that exists for education in the community, Principal Sorensen wonders if one can really understand the students, their families, and their experience. The staff then heard from Dr. Jose Lopez who spoke poetically about education and its purpose for our students and the community at large. He described education as similar to ecosystems; it is the place where students either thrive or die therefore, the environment in which our students learn at Roberto Clemente is incredibly important to their future and the future of our community.
Teachers then began their walk down Division Street making stops at places such as the Flags of Steel, The Sea of Flags mural, Las Casita de Don Pedro, and the Paseo Boricua Flag Mural. While walking Eduardo Arocho, President of the Board at Divison Street Business Development Association (DSBDA), spoke of how each one of the stops along the tour came into existence and its significance to the Puerto Rican people. Each one of the landmarks has a great level of importance and meaning to the community and its struggle to resist gentrification and maintain its Puerto Rican identity. Teachers and staff also made stops along the way to The Teresa Roldan Apartments, Vida Sida, Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School, and Batey Urbano to ensure that they got a full idea of all that the community has to offer to support its residents.
This walk concluded at the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture where members of the staff ate an authentic Puerto Rican meal provided by Nellie’s, made up of Chicharon De Pollo, Tostones, Carne Guisada, and Arroz con Gandules. While they ate, Dr. Lopez spoke of the Community as a Campus plan that places Clemente at the center of all educational improvement in the community. Teachers and staff listened and learned as he spoke of how the International Baccalaureate program at Clemente was just a piece of the overall picture, but one that the community was very instrumental in getting for Clemente.
As teachers and staff left for the evening, many spoke of how they did not truly understand how much history and activism existed within the community. One teacher commented how she wanted to do her next unit on Paseo Boricua and the Humboldt Park community, getting her students involved in understanding the historical significance of their own “backyard.” Another spoke of how “Yesterday’s experience enriched my understanding of the community and the importance of our role as educators within the community.” Principal Sorensen said “I hope that it was educational and inspiring for all to learn all that our community has to offer and how lucky we are to have such an involved community presence with us as we work towards comprehensive school improvement.” And School Community Representative, Jessie Fuentes stated that “ This was the first time in the 40 years of Clemente’s existence that the staff of Clemente was organize to do a community walk and learn about the work that takes place on Paseo. Today spoke volumes to the transformation that is taking place at our school. We are creating history!