Middle schoolers from Orange, New Jersey, visit campus.

DaShawn Davis, 12, says he is determined to go to college.
DaShawn Davis, 12, says he is determined to go to college.

Students in Professor Susan Rosenbloom’s “Public Sociology” class put their lessons into action this semester at the Rosa Parks Community School in Orange, New Jersey.

Drew students participated in after-school programs, tutored students, practiced conversational English with parents and prepared science and math exhibits for STEM night.

Drew’s Center for Civic Engagement is one of several nonprofits that support Rosa Parks as part of a Community School Initiative that also includes students from Montclair State University.

“It’s a hands-on experience,” said Mira Patel, a senior in Rosenbloom’s class. “You can finally take what you’re learning and apply it.” Patel said she has learned strategic thinking, problem-solving skills and teaching techniques and has enjoyed her time with the second-graders at Rosa Parks, “They confide in you. You interact and form a connection with them.”

Public sociology includes the role of civic work in the history of sociology, said Rosenbloom. Her students don’t just learn about problems in society, but also have the opportunity to do something about them. “This is hands-on. Besides understanding the role of sociology in civic society and working at Rosa Parks, we reflect about what we do at the site,” she said.

Recently, her students came up with a creative way to engage the seventh-graders at Rosa Parks—they invited 40 of them to spend the day on the Drew campus to learn more about earning a college degree.

Drew students organized the trip and activities, which included touring campus buildings as part of a scavenger hunt, meeting the Drew Ranger mascot and eating lunch in the Commons. The lesson wasn’t lost on seventh-grader Dashawn Davis, 12, who saw the gym, science labs, concert hall and art museum. “They showed us all the different things that are here,” he said, adding that he definitely wants to go to college. “It’s the right choice.”