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A Graduate School of Education student is empowering inner-city high school students to research issues like violence, crime and poverty that are prevalent in their lives.

Andrew Biros, a 2010 College graduate, is a student in the Secondary Teacher Education Program, an intensive one-year program in GSE that has him researching and working as a student teacher at University City High School.

Biros is teaching a class that was originally a general social sciences course, but after realizing some of the challenges his students faced, he altered the curriculum to address more contemporary issues.

“I sensed a hopelessness in my students who felt they were powerless to these issues that surrounded them and wanted to give them the chance to feel empowered to tackle these issues, which otherwise felt insurmountable, through this class,” Biros said.

The class addresses these issues primarily through discussions, graphic image analysis, writing assignments and technology.

Biros added that he has been pleased with the level of engagement of his students.

“When given this unique opportunity that values the students’ voices, the students show that they know a lot more than you give them credit for,” he said.

One specific event that showcased this engagement was a class visit from Philadelphia Mayor and 1979 Wharton graduate Michael Nutter.

In leading up to the visit, Biros’s students prepared specific questions for Nutter about the topics they were discussing in class.

“It’s important to tell our young people how to be successful and be examples for their peers. We have to tell them to stay in school, to stay off the corners at night and to stay away from drugs and guns,” Nutter said in a statement. “These students are discovering how to be agents of change by learning about the problems in their communities.”

Biros has less than two weeks left with his students before his term as student teacher — or “social justice educator,” as he prefers to call it — comes to a close.

Looking back, Biros feels he has “learned just as much if not more than my students” from the experience.

GSE Secondary Education Coordinator Kate Kinney Grossman added that there are many individuals like Biros — both in Philadelphia and throughout the country — who are engaging urban students in an innovative fashion.

At GSE, “[we] aim to prepare our students for the realities of this context but also push students to think about the learning that can happen in their classrooms that is not measured by a standardized test score.”

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