Gateway program does double duty
High school students can take college classes
NEW HAVEN — Just as the nation grapples with changes being made in the status of many undocumented immigrants, a class of New Haven students ruminated on what that means for people they know.
“If they’re deported, they’ll be homeless,” said Makayla Dawkins, a James Hillhouse High School junior who serves as a student member of the Board of Education.
Many of her friends are immigrants, she said, and she sees them as no different from any other teenager.
Dawkins is one of approximately 12 students learning about the history of immigration in America at Gateway Community College, with a specific focus on how issues of race have echoed throughout the nation’s history.
“I would like to say I’m the teacher that gives them a leg up by providing cutting edge, contemporary perspective on issues they can take to their everyday lives.” Adjunct sociolog y professor Darryl Hugley
For the last seven years, through a partnership with Gateway Community College, students at Hillhouse, Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School and New Haven Academy have been able to take a college-level sociology course for both high school and college credit that examines the history and role of race in America.
Donnell Hilton, coordinator of the Middle College program within Gateway’s dual-enrollment programs, said students go through the normal application process to take courses. Although principals have the final say to authorize courses if they line up with credit areas in the high school curriculum, students can elect the courses they want to take. The course examining American race relations has been a student choice every year.
“This may be a perspective they don’t get in high school,” Hilton said. “They’re not just treated as high school students.”
Sixty to 75 students participate in the program each semester, he said. Students can apply for courses 15 to 60 days before the semester begins.
Adjunct sociology professor Darryl Hugley examines race in his Racial and Ethnic Diversity course by discussing current events, he said.
Recently , that meant looking at immigration through the lens of the day’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals renewal expiration deadline.
“I would like to say I’m the teacher that gives them a leg up by providing cutting edge, contemporary perspective on issues they can take to their everyday lives,” he said.
As students watched a news report of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System President Mark Ojakian discussing the procedure for dealing with raids by immigration authorities, students lamented the amount of bureaucracy involved.
Hugley shared some other issues facing DACA recipients, such as having access to employer-provided health care and concerns with calling the police to report muggings or domestic violence.
In New Haven under then-Mayor John DeStefano Jr., Hugley reminded the class, the city began an identification card program for all city residents, including those who are undocumented. The card is intended to allow access to certain services.
Dawkins and others in the class shared that they have family members who are immigrants, some of them only receiving papers recently.
“We’re all smart children,” said Hillhouse junior Ashley Harris, a Jamaican immigrant.
Hugley told the students that America’s history includes a pattern of nativism and xenophobia, citing examples such as the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907, which limited immigration of workers from Japan, according to history.com. Immigration was heavily restricted from places other than northern Europe, with white laborers acting out of the fear their jobs may be taken by immigrants, he told the class.
Harris said her interest in the course is because of a desire to learn more about the subject .
“I want to learn how it could benefit me as an immigrant and the history of race in America,” she said.
Due to her participation in the program, Hillhouse senior Ahrtez Moore expects to graduate from high school with nine college credits.
“Hopefully I can go to a four-year university,” he said. With nine credits, it would save him money by avoiding almost an entire semester.
Hilton participated in an early college experience himself.
As a senior at Hillhouse in 1999, he said he initially planned to enter a trade after graduating, until he enrolled in a psychology course at Southern Connecticut State University while still in high school.
“I realized I belonged in a classroom,” he said. “That’s why I’m here today.”
Hilton said the Middle College is one of six dual enrollment programs run by the college , and he hopes to expand the program to other high schools in the district.
The Middle College program is available for free to students, with credits appearing on their transcripts. In addition to the course on race, students can take nine other courses in areas such as criminal justice, psychology, government, business and Web design.
Makayla Dawkins, a junior at James Hillhouse High School, answers a question about immigration during her sociology class in the Middle College program at Gateway Community College in New Haven.