By: Sarah Rowan, Associate News Editor
President of the Towson chapter of Urban Needs in Teacher Education, or UNITE, Ashley Bason said that she hopes to make the organization more prominent on campus and in the community in the coming months.
“As of right now, we’re looking to get more members,” Bason said. “Then we’re also looking to be more involved in the community.”
A national non-profit organization, UNITE was founded and led by urban teachers. According to its website, the organization aims to prepare future urban teachers to overcome challenges of high-needs schools and to stay committed to teaching.
Bason hopes that UNITE will “help to open up the conversation and help more teachers go into [urban schools].” She said that she would like for the organization to be more involved in the community through volunteer opportunities at various urban schools next semester.
As part of these efforts to grow the organization, UNITE held an open panel discussion April 21 in Hawkins Hall to discuss urban education myths in the Baltimore City Public School System. The panel included community coordinators, Baltimore City school principals and workers from the Family League of Baltimore non-profit, which focuses on improving opportunities for city children and families.
“We feel that if we hold events such as panel discussions… more people will start to hear about UNITE and they’ll want to become members…and then [we’ll] really build that way,” Bason said.
According to Bason, UNITE’s mission is especially important to Towson because of campus’ proximity to Baltimore City.
“So many people come here, and they go and teach in suburban areas, not realizing that they can take their talents into urban education,” Bason said. “So, really having an organization that exposes people to another world of education, I think, is important.”
Bason cited the city “school-to-prison pipeline” as a difference between urban and suburban school resources and demographics.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the school-to-prison pipeline refers to policies and practices that funnel at-risk children out of the public school system and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.
For many students, this begins with inadequate resources at public schools. It also includes zero-tolerance policies that criminalize minor infractions of school rules, high rates of suspension and lack of due process for suspensions and expulsions.
Schools’ increased reliance on police force over school administration to maintain discipline is also detrimental to students, according to ACLU.
Towson UNITE will hold their last general interest meeting of the semester May 5, in Hawkins Hall, Room 016, at 7 p.m. Bason said that members of the group are looking to fill new executive board positions including a social media coordinator. Interested students can also follow the group on Twitter at @Towson_UNITE to keep an eye out for upcoming events.
“If someone is passionate about education, and they think, or maybe they don’t think, urban education is for them, come out to UNITE to just at least explore the option,” Bason said. “If you feel that urban education is not for you, then that’s perfectly okay, but at least explore it.”