Learning community prepares students for weighty issues

Students in a recently developed community program on campus are focusing on civil rights and social justice in their general education classes.

The Social Justice League is a learning community program at Skyline that began in the spring of 2014. The Learning Community was made for TRiO, the YES Program for current and former Foster Youth, and students who wanted to use their education to address social justice issues. The Social Justice League provides students with a support system, leadership development, student success skills, writing skills, and more to help students grow personally and in this topic area.

“Within the TRiO program we wanted to create a learning community where students in TRiO would have an opportunity to build community in the classroom and also get faculty to work closely in coordinating classes to support each other and students in the learning community,” said Jessica Lopez, TRiO counselor and professor in the Social Justice League learning community.

The Social Justice League works as a cohort program. Students who stick to the program spend four semesters together, in two classes, which are taught in an interdisciplinary manner. The two classes work together and have a common theme.

“Students in the Social Justice League Learning Community start to assist and help each other in class,” said Shelvina Singh, a student involved in the Social Justice League. “Since it’s linked courses, most of the students are going with you to the next classes, so homework, studying, etc. are easier to get done, which then helps students to still be motivated to continue with their education.”

In the first semester of the Social Justice League, students will take COUN 100 paired with an English class that matches their level. These two classes collaborate so students learn through both disciplines. Students may read a book about African-American social issues in English and then work with those issues in the counseling class, the similarity in the classes being the issues discussed and the difference being how they are applied.

“Faculty members have more opportunity to come together and benefit students…in a learning community there is more of an intentional focus, the faculty has to come together beforehand to make a plan,” said Marisa Thigpen, program services coordinator for Learning Communities & Distance Education program.

The Social Justice League has courses in math, English, and communications that center on social issues such as poverty, homelessness, women’s rights and more. In these courses, students learn how to ask questions, conduct research on life issues, and communicate this research back to others.

“It benefits Skyline College, because through these courses, students become empowered when these issues are identified and understood; ultimately, they would want to strive to make a global change,” Singh said.

Students who participate in learning communities have been shown to have a higher completion rate than those who don’t. The emphasis on connecting with each other and the campus n these programs could be a factor.

“[The program] gives a great foundation for their time here…It connects students to each other, academic programs, and to Skyline College… [There is] a benefit in the idea of being in a community, students will be interested in your success,” Thigpen said.

“I would recommend everyone to join the Social Justice League and mostly, students who have majors that are related to social justice, such as criminal justice majors, social services majors, etc,” Singh said