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Release: March 7, 2000

UI education students to spend spring break working at inner-city schools

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- More than a dozen University of Iowa education majors will spend their spring break next week in inner-city Chicago helping out in public schools and after-school programs.

Rahima Wade, an associate professor in the UI College of Education's Curriculum and Instruction Division, arranged the first such trip last year as a way of exposing students in her Elementary Social Studies Methods course -- many of whom come from rural, homogenous settings in Iowa -- to urban education.

"Really, I was looking for experience for myself because most of my teaching has involved suburban and white students," said Wade, who no longer accompanies students to Chicago.

The trips grew in popularity with students, and Wade began offering them as fulfillment of her course's community service-learning requirement and a related one-credit teaching practicum. One group went to Chicago for a week in January, and one more trip is planned for May.

The trips are organized by the Chicago-based Urban Life Center, which has been designing urban education experiences and placing student interns in city-wide internships since 1970. In addition to working in the Robert Taylor Homes neighborhood -- considered among the poorest in the nation -- the UI students will live in apartments in a mixed-income, ethnically diverse neighborhood and will have to learn how to get around the city safely.

"Students talk about how transforming the experience is for them. It's very intense," Wade says. "Some students come back from the experience and want to teach in the inner city after graduation."