Inside a Community-Based Learning Internship

This fall, Lucy Watson ’12 is interning at the Renaissance School, a grade 6-12 expeditionary learning school in Springfield, researching grants and writing proposals for vital programs and staff positions to help the school continue its innovative educational curriculum.

Watson says that combining her major in anthropology with this internship has deepened her knowledge and perspective of education in an inner city.

“I have more context now, and a better means of approaching the work I want to do, versus just having this idea that I want to help in some way,” she said.

“Lucy is helping us develop grant proposals to support our Outward Bound program and to fund a position in Crew, which delivers support to college-bound students,” said Principal Steve Mahoney.

“Crew” is an Outward Bound term from the motto, “We are not passengers, we are crew.” At Renaissance, each senior is in a small group—crew—led by a teacher who focuses on developing the skills students will need to help them get into college. Crew is one way Renaissance works toward its mission of having a 100 percent college acceptance rate for graduating seniors.

Watson’s work is one of three Community-Based Learning (CBL) projects Mount Holyoke has undertaken with Renaissance. Another is the course History of Global Inequality, in which MHC students visit the school, and the third is an after-school SAT-preparatory course designed and facilitated by a Mount Holyoke student.

Watson entered college knowing she wanted to work in inner-city education. CBL, which connects students with volunteer and internship opportunities in local communities like Holyoke and Springfield, let Watson combine her academics with her social justice mindset, enhancing both.

Studying anthropology, Watson said, has helped her recognize her own biases. She will spend the spring in Sweden teaching English in a public school and learning about the country’s educational system. After graduation, she plans to teach for a few years, learn about the challenges facing educators, and then go into administrative and policy work.

“I want to have the broadest and most on-the-ground perspective that I can,” she said.