Project Challenges 4th Graders To Design Bridges and Pathways Between Community, College

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Dominican University of California’s Center for Community Engagement is working on a youth engagement collaboration designed to bolster college and civic readiness in partnership with UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN and San Rafael’s Youth in Arts.

This spring semester, students from Dr. Emily Wu’s Service-Learning course have been engaging with students at San Rafael’s Laurel Dell Elementary school in a real world challenge related to the theme “Bridges, Gateways and Pathways to College and Community.” 

For that challenge, the children are studying symbolic and real bridges to probe and expand the links between themselves as individuals, their school, their neighborhood, college, and the City of San Rafael.

The fourth grade students recently visited the Dominican campus to present some of their work to university faculty and administrators, including Dr. Mojgan Behmand, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty.


The campus visit was an opportunity for the Laurel Dell students to explore the Dominican campus and engage with students, staff, and faculty. Dr. Behmand shared her personal story with the students and then issued the Y-PLAN/ Youth in Arts project challenge that the fourth graders will be grappling with for the next two months: “What are the pathways, gateways, and bridges that will lead you from your home and school to college and beyond — and how can the people at Dominican University help?”

Dominican President Nicola Pitchford and Dr. Behmand will visit Laurel Dell in May to hear the students’ visions and recommendations.

Y-PLAN (Youth – Plan, Learn, Act Now) is a K-12 civic youth engagement strategy developed by UC Berkeley’s Center for Cities + Schools (CC + S). 

This collaboration enriches Dominican’s long-time partnerships with schools and non-profit organizations serving the San Rafael immigrant communities and contributes valuable community knowledge to increase access and a sense of belonging for BIPOC students.

The Laurel Dell students were accompanied to campus by Dr. Shirl Buss, Youth In Arts instructor and creative director of CC+S, and John Seligman, fourth grade teacher. The group was greeted by Dominican alumnus Pepe Gonzalez, former Laurel Dell principal and now Director of Community Partnerships for San Rafael City Schools. The Dominican team includes Julia van der Ryn, Executive Director of the Center for Community Engagement; Lily Servin, La Vida Dominican student & Summer Bridge Program Coordinator; Dr. Emily Wu, Assistant Director of Community Outreach and Project Development; Dr. Lucia Leon, Assistant Professor of Latino Studies; Lynn Sondag, professor of art and Honors Program director; and Dominican students Alyssa de la Cruz and Isaiah Amaranto.

Through their Service-Learning course at Dominican, Alyssa and Isaiah are working with Y-Plan, supporting Shirl Buss, while working with the fourth graders in the classroom at Laurel Dell. Alyssa and Isaiah hosted visits to Dominican’s science and nursing labs, while Sondag led the fourth graders through the campus art studios.

Photo above of biological sciences major Alyssa de la Cruz '23 working with Laurel Dell students in Dominican science center classroom.

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