Prescott College's Anita Fernández often brought her students to Tucson Unified School District meetings, where she spoke on behalf of the Mexican-American Studies program. That connection led her to a project with former Tucson Magnet High School MAS teacher Curtis Acosta to provide college credit to high school students taking his Chicano literature class at the John Valenzuela Youth Center. Students can now earn up to two college credits in the Sunday class, and a scholarship fund has been started to help with tuition. For more info, go to www.prescott.edu.
How did the project come together?
The idea came from Curtis. He shared with me that there was no way he was going to stop teaching what he's been teaching, and he figured out a way to teach his Chicano literature class. He shared with me that he was teaching this Sunday class at the John Valenzuela Youth Center (1550 S. Sixth Ave.). I started thinking about the experiences I had visiting his classes in the past, and bringing my college students there, and the knowledge that was being shared and the literature that is now banned. We talked about the idea of offering them college credit, but it was a matter of figuring out the logistics and if the college would go for it.
Is anything similar offered to high school students through Prescott College?
We have a thing called the Early High School Experience that just started. But most of those classes are in the summer and offer a taste of what you might be able to experience at Prescott College. But this is different.
Do you want to open this up to other types of classes?
We're just kicking it off. Right now there are 10 students. This is sort of a pilot to see if we can ... perhaps bring in another class, with former MAS teachers like Maria Federico Brummer doing American government with Chicano perspectives.
What about involving more high school students?
I could see the goal down the road to have the classes being open to any high school students interested in the subject matter who are engaged and want to spend their own time. You have to keep in mind that under Curtis, this group has been meeting faithfully every Sunday. It's a commitment, like taking a college class one evening a week.
Does Prescott College have any say in the curriculum?
Curtis is in control of what's taught and this is his project. My part is how can we make this have a different kind of academic value that the students can leave with that they don't necessarily have now. I don't take any credit at all for the classes.
Not all students have to enroll for college credit, right?
If they want credit, they would enroll. We've opened up a scholarship fund even though we are offering it at a really low cost. The school has to process everybody just for that class so any money that goes to the scholarship fund is applied to the student's tuition. If all 10 students decide to go for college credit, we'd cover all of them with the scholarship.
Why the scholarship?
It doesn't seem fair if we create this thing and no one could afford it. We are charging as little as we can, only (enough) to cover the overhead to process the students and do the paperwork for the business office. The college is being extremely generous and has helped set up the scholarship fund.
Is this also one way to expose future college students to Prescott College?
That was one of my hopes, that we would be able to interest Tucson students in particular, but also Southern Arizona students. We have a pool of incredibly intelligent social justice-minded youth. Another hope is this would offer an opportunity to offer credit for a MAS class, but it is also the college wanting to show its support for MAS and take a stand that they don't believe these classes should be eliminated or any literature banned.
Where do folks send donations for the scholarship fund?
Checks can be mailed to Prescott College, 220 Grove Ave., Prescott, AZ 86301. They have to write "Class" in the memo line of the check.