On June 30th, 2016, a manila envelope arrived at the BridgeYear Headquarters (aka a townhouse living room set up to look like an office). Inside were a couple of pieces of paper that the BridgeYear team had so anxiously been waiting for. The first sentence read:
We are pleased to inform you that upon review of your application for tax exempt status we have determined that you are exempt from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the International Revenue Code.”
At first glance, this may seem like an odd sentence to get excited about, but for a team of ten that had been working for a month to build something from nothing, it was the kind of confirmation we needed. We had been approved for 501(c)(3) status, meaning we were officially operating under nonprofit status!
It’s been a year since that day, which means BridgeYear is officially one! Last Friday, on the organization’s birthday, the team celebrated with some cake and a photoshoot. As I stood there and watched my coworkers laugh hysterically at our co-founders standing behind the camera yelling things like “Give me more sass!” and “Yes, that’s perfect!” I couldn’t help but reflect on the last year. So much has changed about the organization, and in the process, a lot has changed about me too. After my first summer of interning, I realized that education was the field I saw myself in the most. While I didn’t come to that conclusion then and there, subconsciously, I built my class schedule around topics that I believed would best prepare me to serve in this sector.
Upon my return to Brandeis for the fall 2016 semester, I took a course called Latinos in the US with Professor Madeleine López. There, I learned about the generations of Latinos before me whose efforts to attain social justice in education are the reason I get to attend a school like Brandeis today. Professor López taught me to analyze history in a way that I hadn’t been taught to before – she showed me that the inequalities experienced by Latinxs in our education system today are rooted in the history of this country. With her words always in mind, I’ve been able to trace back the reasons for the low rates at which Latinxs enroll in and graduate from higher education. When a whole population experiences de facto segregation and is denied of resources for decades, the systems in place are anything but fair. I think about this a lot as nearly 78% of BridgeYear students today are Latinxs from low-income communities. It makes the reasons behind my work in college access and success 100 times stronger on a good day, and 1000 times more powerful on the tougher days.
While my class with Professor López gave background to my work, Spring 2017 brought with it a massive amount of knowledge through the class Critical Perspectives in Urban Education. It was one thing to learn about segregation before Brown v. Board of Education in 1964, and it was another to talk about its existence in 2017. Professor Derron Wallace taught me to recognize the evolving forms of racial, economic, and social exclusion that place students in urban areas at a disadvantage. With BridgeYear I get to go around the city and into high schools where resources are scarce and out of reach for those who could benefit from them the most. Because of Professor Wallace, I’m able to better understand the complexity of issues affecting local public schools and then critically think about how I’d like to tackle them in the future.
Writing this reminds me of how lucky I really am. I’m able to work hands on in something I’m passionate about. I get to turn theory from my classes into practice at work and the scholar inside of me cannot get over how magnificent this feels. With six weeks left of the internship, I’m eager to see more of my Brandeisian lessons appear in my day to day work.
Dariana Resendez, ’19