York Road Literacy and Employment Initiative
The York Road Literacy and Employment Initiative is an ongoing community-based research and engagement project that partners Loyola writing students, the Richnor Springs Neighborhood Association, GEDCO/CARES Career Connections, the Loyola Clinical Centers in Belvedere Square, and other York Road corridor stakeholders to bring about positive change in north Baltimore.
As part of this IRB-approved community-based research project, students from my spring 2014 WR325, Rhetoric of Professional Writing class worked with Richnor Springs residents to compose online literacy resources. Those resources focused on using MS Word and the Internet. Materials also included information on writing effective cover letters and résumés and preparing for job interviews. My students also worked with Richnor Springs on another adopted lot and block clean up. Some pictures from this service-learning project are shown on the left.
As part of Loyola’s summer Kolvenbach research award program, my research assistant, Giuliana Caranante, and I revised the WR325 resources and conducted usability testing on them with participants from Baltimore’s GEDCO/CARES. Using this data, we revised the resources again and then ran three community literacy workshops in cooperation with GEDCO/CARES. We also collected data from the workshops to improve the project and the workshop material.
After coding and analyzing our data, we found that participants thought the resources and the workshops were very helpful. Most importantly, 7 of our 14 workshop attendees obtained employment. Eventually, the literacy resources will be housed on the GEDCO/CARES website for future workshops.
In summer 2017, my undergraduate research assistant Morgan Lenhoff, a graduate student from the Loyola Clinical Centers (LCC), Dereka Ross, and I collaborated with the LCC in Belvedere Square to host a second round of workshops. Volunteers from Loyola's Office of Technology joined the team as we used literacy resources developed spring 2017 WR325 Professional Writing service-learning students. Nine of 20 workshop attendees got jobs. Combined, the 2014 and the 2017 workshops helped 16 of 34 workshop participants (47%) find employment. In spring 2018, a student from my Professional Writing course, Ikechukwu Sharpe, produced 10 Tips for a Successful Interview as a service-learning project with GEDCO/CARES.
Read more about my community work in Baltimore in the October 2011 issue of the Loyola College Newsletter and in chapter 6 of Partners in Literacy: A Writing Center Model for Civic Engagement.
Richnor Springs, Baltimore, Maryland
During the spring 2011 semester, a group of students from my WR220, Introduction to Rhetoric course worked with Richnor Springs to update information on the Richnor Springs Livebaltimore website and to develop a neighborhood association meeting flier. Since then, neighborhood association meeting attendance has increased from a hand full of concerned citizens to a room full of people at Loyola’s 5104 building on York Road.
Students from my fall 2011 WR325, Rhetoric of Professional Writing class worked with Richnor Springs to develop their own website and to collect narrative histories to help tell the story of the neighborhood.
Students from my spring 2012 WR387, Technical Writing class conducted usability tests on the Richnor Springs website using traditional time on task, mouse click, and survey methods, as well as using the EyeGuide eye tracking system.
Students from my fall 2013 WR305, Writing for the Web class worked with Richnor Springs to revise the Dreamweaver site into a WordPress site that the community can now update themselves. We also helped Richnor Springs clean up a vacant lot that the community adopted from Baltimore City.
Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Baltimore, Maryland
In fall 2011, service-learning students from my WR325, Rhetoric of Professional Writing course worked closely with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School to tutor their students in writing. In addition to this wonderful service, the students created a tutoring handbook as a deliverable to help future writing tutors at Cristo Rey. View the Cristo Rey tutoring handbook in PDF.