What do you want to learn and why? That’s where it all starts. Is it literacy skills in your native language or in a language that you are learning, be that Somali, English, Spanish, or another language? Do you wish to become an American citizen or build an understanding of how to be active in your community? Do you want to preserve a traditional craft or learn to cook to stay well? Whatever your interests, you can learn it at Jane Addams through one-on-one pairings or small group learning time. At Jane Addams, all learners are teachers, sharing their experiences, insights, and strengths while gathering the same from all members of our diverse, dynamic community.
Evenings at Jane Addams School include large group discussions on issues of importance to the community and the world. Different participants facilitate these dialogues — college students, community members, etc. The topics are those of engaged citizens everywhere concerned about their families and community, ranging from the meaning of citizenship, democracy, or freedom to cultural traditions on childrearing and examining violence in the community. In this forum, Jane Addams School members have their voices heard on important issues while honoring and sharing cultural traditions.
How do you define community? One way is people who share. What is shared varies, but it ranges from culture and religion to concerns about safety, education and politics.
A Jane Addams School site since its inception in 1996, St. Paul’s West Side has been a portal of entry into the region for immigrants since the mid-19th century. Today, long-term residents live side by side with more recent refugee families and immigrants. For all of that diversity, they share what neighbors share – place – homes, schools, parks, shops, streets, sidewalks. Jane Addams School provides the public space for a community that could be fragmented by diversity to come together to build bonds of understanding, to unite, to work together for common purpose.
Teach = Learn
Here, teaching and learning is reciprocal. The distinction between learners and teachers blurs. We all teach. We all learn. Every person has something of value to contribute. Everyone has things to learn. So, everyone contributes to the creation of the school and everyone participates actively, sharing their strengths.
Citizenship, politics and democracy have never been neat and tidy. Nothing that demands so much passion and hard work can be. At the Jane Addams School we learn by doing — we get involved in the often hard and frustrating work of our democracy. This is hard work that is chaotic and organic, but you will see our energy and excitement over things that matter. Stir in our persistence to play, and you get a clear sense of the vitality of Jane Addams School.
Democracy is so good it is, rightfully, a celebration. So, amid all of the hard and often frustrating work, we have fun. Proud of our pasts and how far we have come, we celebrate ourselves, our community and the bright promise of our future. And, we play. To learn and just for fun. In every ordinary way that people, young and old, play. This is all part of a vibrant and supporting community.