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Monday, September 9, 2019 - 9:45am

With an eye to the future of social justice, advocacy and education, Mercy College presented the inaugural Leading for Change Summer Institute, developed and led by the School of Education.

For the pilot program, which took place on the Dobbs Ferry Campus in early July, organizers recruited 21 high school students representing more than 20 high schools in New York and New Jersey. Participants were selected through a rigorous screening process that evaluated academic achievement, commitment to activities outside the classroom, and a demonstrated passion for advocacy, social justice and education.

The innovative program was developed by faculty in the School of Education with guidance from the School of Business. Spearheading the initiative were Mary Ellen Hoffman, associate dean for administration in the School of Education, and Teresa Quackenbush, a member of the childhood education faculty. “We based our pilot program on guidelines developed by the School of Business for its highly acclaimed Leadership Academy, now in its fifth year,” said Quackenbush. “Instead of seeking out future business leaders, we sought out future educators who want to make a positive impact on society through education leadership.”

Working in consultation with Eugenia Macchiarelli, director of undergraduate operations in the School of Business, Quackenbush and Hoffman led an education faculty team to plan six full days of programming on the theme of social justice and advocacy. The organizers recruited school superintendents, community activists, guidance counselors and advisors from area high schools, and arts professionals who encouraged students to effect change through the creative arts.

Each day was packed with team-building activities, educational field trips, workshops and lectures presented by a diverse group of speakers and faculty, both from Mercy and the outside community. Participants hiked up Bear Mountain to test their mettle through teamwork exercises and toured Harlem to explore its rich culture and history of advocacy. Classroom sessions offered inspiring talks and panel discussions with a variety of educators, social justice activists and people from the arts.

“We know that many high school students feel trepidation about entering college, so our initial aim was to begin forming relationships with students from high schools in the area,” said Quackenbush. “It allows them to see how much they can be supported and guided through their college experience, especially if they choose a place like Mercy.”

What the program netted was so much more. Participants blossomed under the warming influence of dedicated professionals and educators who wanted only to help them succeed in their quest to build a better and more just world. “By Friday, when we held a graduation ceremony and each participant gave a short speech, you could really see the impact it had on them,” said Quackenbush.

“In the School of Education, we take seriously our social responsibility to serve our community partners and to make a difference in our communities,” said Dr. Eric Martone, interim dean of the School of Education. “The Leading for Change Summer Institute was not only a way for participants to develop their own voices and learn ways to become advocates for change, it also allowed the School of Education to distinguish itself as a leader among its academic peers by offering such an impactful program for this group of talented teenagers.”

“We often think of leadership and advocacy as too big to take on,” said Quackenbush. “We wanted these young students to leave the Summer Institute with a new way of thinking about themselves. All week the presenters kept encouraging the students to ask themselves, what is my gift, my voice, my outlet? I hope this program enabled them to begin the work of finding out the answers, and using them to make a difference.”

Leading for Change 

Leading for Change