The Dance of Mentorship: Reflecting on the 2019 Urban Ed Fellowship

Each year, dozens of Smith students head for cities across the country – from LA to Boston, Houston to Chicago – to work alongside master teachers in urban classrooms during Smith’s January Interterm and “summer” break. This January the Smith Urban Education Initiative sent 45 students to apprentice alongside teachers in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Springfield, Philadelphia, Baltimore and more. This summer 35 students will work in urban educational settings in New York, Boston and other cities. While our students spread out far and wide across the country, what connects the dots in the Urban Ed map is a network of alumnae who open their classrooms and homes to students eager to apply what they’ve learned at Smith to the profession and craft of teaching.

This year, for example, Kayleigh Colombero ‘08 hosted two Smith students at Étoile Academy in Houston, a college preparatory school she founded last year as a Building Excellent Schools Fellow. Not only did the two students apprentice at Étoile, they also lived in Kayleigh’s house, where they reflected on their days at school over dinner, and got an insider’s take on the fascinating and incredibly diverse American metropolis. Kayleigh’s apprentices – Anna Zimmer ‘20 and Jassandre Berlus-Jacques ‘21 – immersed themselves in the life of the school and its leader, watching Kayleigh strive each day to make her school work for children and families.

Kayleigh and our other alums commit each January to giving current students a deeply honest experience of teaching. As importantly, they commit to being mentors – “individuals committed to helping others become fuller versions of who they are.” The best mentoring relationships are reciprocal in nature, and each year we hear from alums like Kayleigh in Houston, Anna Lugo ‘05 in Holyoke, and Janelle Bradshaw ‘00, superintendent of the Public Prep network of schools in New York City about how working with current Smith students is more than rewarding, it’s also renewing. Their reflections on what they get from mentoring remind me of what one of my mentors, Parker J. Palmer, once wrote about the “empowering” give-and-take at the center of mentor-apprentice relationships:

Mentors and apprentices are partners in an ancient human dance, and one of teaching’s great rewards is the daily chance it gives us to get back on the dance floor. It is the dance of the spiraling generations, in which the old empower the young with their experience and the young empower the old with new life, reweaving the fabric of the human community as they touch and turn.

Our urban ed fellows program seeks to be an initiative that provides both mentors and apprentices an opportunity to “touch and turn.” The stories here give a glimpse into the January experiences of some of the newest members of our UEI community, of which you are a vital part. Hope you enjoy their stories.



PS For more on the Urban Education Initiative, here’s an article from The Sophian by Maeve McCurdy, ‘21.

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