UDaB Winter 2020

Reading Between the Lines: Literacy and Racial Injustice

Pointing out the neighborhood they stayed in during the UDaB trip

In the George Peabody Library, Lauren Krott (right) and Juliana Carton point out the Lovely Lanes Church on a map of Baltimore. The UDaB students stayed in the church during their week of service.

When Lauren Krott ’23 began at UD in the fall of 2019, she decided to make community service a priority.  “I heard about the UDaB (University of Delaware Alternative Breaks) program in my first year seminar course and I fell in love with the organization’s mission and goals,” she said.  UDaB immerses student teams in direct service and experiential learning with community organizations to increase knowledge of social justice issues and encourage active citizenship.  “I wanted to jump right in,” said Krott, who applied for the winter session program because preparations would take place in the fall allowing her to get connected right away.  She was assigned to a program which would work with Reading Partners, a Baltimore-based organization which places community volunteers in low-income schools to help kids master basic reading.

Community service was something Krott always felt strongly about.  She has helped children with special needs develop communication and social skills through a volunteer baseball program, and since arriving to college has become a Healthy Living Ambassador through the 4H Healthy Habits program.  “This program allows me to serve the community by teaching lessons about nutrition to middle school students across the state of Delaware,” she said.  Being an ambassador allows her to work with the community regularly, but UDaB is different.  With UDaB, she gets to look at systemic problems like literacy, think about possible solutions, and then get hands-on experience with organizations who are in the community doing the work. “On this project I formed deep connections with Baltimore residents, explored the community, and learned about Baltimore’s history,” she said.  “I heard personal stories about Baltimore and I left feeling connected to the city and its community.”

Through Reading Partners, which has been part of the Baltimore educational landscape since 2012, UD students provided tutoring in eight elementary schools in low-income neighborhoods.  On this trip, UD volunteers completed 324 one-on-one tutoring sessions with students who were at least six months behind grade level in reading competency.  According to Krott, the volunteers provided tutoring help and the elementary students gained confidence in their skills over the course of the sessions.

Like all UDaB experiences, this trip included a number of pre-departure meetings.  “In the meetings, we learned about intersectionality, social issues in Baltimore, educational equity, and community engagement,” Krott said.  Each trip has a focus area, ranging from environment to domestic violence to disabilities and much more.  The pre-departure meetings let site leaders deliver important content and background information to participants related to the focus area, the community agency, and the community they’ll be traveling to.

Lauren Krott is an Honors student studying nutrition and dietetics in the College of Health Sciences. While she is looking forward to getting back to her UD life in February, she has enjoyed relaxing and spending time with family and friends at home this winter.  Like all Honors students, she continues to learn new things every day.  Here’s one of her recent finds: Baltimore City has over 200 different neighborhoods with unique architecture, history, and community.  While driving through them she noticed the different feel and special buildings central to each.  These unique neighborhoods make Baltimore a community-oriented city.

UDaB students pause for a quick photo after sorting book donations given to the Baltimore Reading Partners organization.

Wherever you are in your journey through service and citizenship, UDaB might be something to consider.  Maybe you have only participated in one-off “day of service” events, maybe you’ve participated in longer-term arrangements with a church or community center.  UDaB allows you to learn and prepare to enter a community facing one or more particular challenges and then takes you to live and serve that community with a reputable partner for a week during winter session or spring break.  If you are interested in learning more about the organization, including how to apply for a trip, visit the website: https://sites.udel.edu/sdi-udab/.