By Karette Fussell, PIO
Photos by Bruce McGowan, teacher
Ventura Youth Correctional Facility
“Without education he lives within the narrow, dark and grimy walls of ignorance. Education, on the other hand, means emancipation. It means light and liberty. It means the uplifting of the soul of man into the glorious light of truth, the light by which men can only be made free. To deny education to any people is one of the greatest crimes against human nature. It is easy to deny them the means of freedom and the rightful pursuit of happiness and to defeat the very end of their being.” – Frederick Douglass
In May, Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VYCF) students at Mary B. Perry High School hosted another Project Based Learning (PBL) exhibition, a modern humanitarianism study highlighting the narrative of Frederick Douglass, an African American slave who lived in the 1800s and became a national abolitionist, world-class orator, celebrated intellectual and author.
Douglass exemplified humanitarianism by helping slaves become free. He challenged the status quo of his time and championed social justice against insurmountable odds. His struggle and his insight enlightened a nation.
PBL is a student-centered philosophy that focuses on a subject, allowing students to investigate and respond to a complex question, challenge or problem.
The new theme provided the catalyst and prism through which struggles of human oppression from yesteryear, so bravely and valiantly fought by Douglass and many others, are still poignantly relevant.
Students in teacher Salzarulo’s class, demonstrated how service and social justice fuel the modernization of humanitarianism with a compelling community impact project.
Fourteen students penned a collection of editorials in The Liberator, published by the Mary B. Perry High School Free Press. (The original Liberator was an abolitionist newspaper published in the 1800s.)
Each article espoused freedom through education and heightened awareness, focusing specifically on the abolition of human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery.
Another project using the medium of video focused on the modernization of humanitarianism and service from the history of generations past to modern times. It was completed by students from different cultures, gang affiliation and backgrounds.
Students worked together seamlessly, each separately professing their identity on camera to be that of Douglass and Father Greg Boyle from Homeboy Industries, as various images of Douglass and Boyle served as a visual backdrop.
Ultimately each youth assumed their own identity as they introduced themselves, shared personal truths, their concern for others and the future of their community.
The video ended with each participant proclaiming, “I am human.”
The outcome was a visually stunning and provocative cinematic piece where students embodied a message of compassion, hope, service and altruism, while connecting the humanity of the past to the present with a depth of wisdom beyond their years.
Douglass worked to abolish slavery in the 1800s.
Today, Boyle continues to uphold the mantle of social justice, service and altruism as a powerful purveyor of hope for the hopeless. Boyle is an American Roman Catholic priest of the Jesuit order and former pastor of Dolores Mission Church in Los Angeles.
He is the founder and director of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world.
Homeboy Industries employs and trains former gang members in a range of social enterprises and provides critical services to 15,000 men and women every year on a quest for a better life.
Boyle holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and English from Gonzaga University, a master’s degree in English from Loyola Marymount University, a master of divinity degree from the Weston School of Theology, and master of sacred theology degree from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.
“Gang violence is about a lethal absence of hope,” Boyle once said. “Nobody has ever met a hopeful kid who joined a gang.”
Boyle personifies the modernization of humanitarianism and was represented in 28 projects at VYCF.
Student ambassadors vetted visitors and staff through a plethora of PBL projects focusing on the value of service, altruism and community.
During visiting, parents viewed exhibitions and took notice of the hard work and effort their children put into their PBL Classroom Projects. PBL exhibitions were also viewed in the Behavior Treatment Program and Female Empowerment Space.
It is through culturally responsive pedagogy and PBL that Division of Juvenile Justice teachers continue to create an academically enriching milieu for students of all ethnicities and races to be comfortable and thrive.
PBL helps inspire students to resist the polarizing politics of peer pressure, gang rivalry and racial divisiveness and embrace the emancipation inherent in education.