Using the Language of Learning to Improve Communities

In talking to Madison Rogers and reviewing her accomplishments, it’s easy to forget that she is only an undergraduate.

The senior Spanish major will graduate from the College of Arts and Sciences on Thursday, May 19, with an impressive resume of nonprofit experience. And according to her, this is only the beginning.

Rogers, a Collingswood resident, already has made an impact in Camden, and with the continuation of her studies in the campus’ graduate program, she plans to remain involved with education programs and initiatives in the city.

Her early involvement as a Civic Scholar, a learning community of select students who make a substantial commitment to civic engagement in Camden and the region, “inspired her from that first day of being in Camden,” she recalls. The program requires an annual service commitment of 300 hours. Her experiences with various Camden programs as an educational ambassador for students in grades four through eight and later as an English tutor to bilingual students led to the creation of an English as a Second Language (ESL) course for parents whose children attend afterschool programs at three of the city’s elementary schools. Rogers’ efforts in improving educational opportunities then brought her to TeenSHARP, which works to increase underrepresented students’ access to college. She was hired as the first site manager for TeenSHARP (Successful in High-Achieving and Reaching Their Potential) more than a year ago.

In 2013, Rogers began an ESL course for parents whose children attend afterschool programs at R.C. Molina Elementary School, Coopers Poynt, and Pyne Poynt in Camden. Her role as a volunteer in a program for elementary and middle school students showed her their parents’ need for English lessons, but exploring options for ESL classes made her realize that few opportunities existed for adults looking to improve their language skills. Instead of being discouraged, Rogers started her own course.

Her experience with TeenSHARP began as a volunteer in her sophomore year of college. TeenSHARP was founded in 2009 by Atnre and Tatiana Alleyne, both graduates of the master’s program in public administration at Rutgers-Camden. The program gives low-income and minority youth access to leadership opportunities and prepares them for success at selective colleges and universities. The organization began at Rutgers-Camden to serve students beginning in sixth grade from southern New Jersey and Philadelphia. In the fall of 2015, TeenSHARP opened its second location at the University of Delaware.

As the “committed person on the ground,” Rogers has been responsible for advising and mentoring young people and their parents, as well as supporting the corps of volunteers. Considering she was only 21 when she began the job, which she will leave this summer to devote her attention to full-time graduate studies, the experience has been both challenging and immensely rewarding. “I have been managing volunteers, some of whom had been my peers as Civic Scholars. I had to learn the best ways to communicate and make sure that people are invested in the program.”

Rogers plans to become certified as a Spanish teacher and wants to study applied linguistics. She hopes through linguistics research that she can gain insight into how to best “merge research with pedagogy.”

Posted in: Student Achievement

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