Closing the Achievement Gap Through Cultural Studies
Guest Presenters: Educators Jorge Sandoval and Diana Isern

Jorge Sandoval teaches U.S. History and Government and the Introduction to Latin American Studies course at the Academy of Urban Planning (AUP). He was born and raised in Hempstead, New York. He earned a BA in Humanities from SUNY Old Westbury and a MS in Secondary Education from St. John's University. Prior to joining the Academy of Urban Planning in 2005, Jorge served as the Associate Director of the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) at Columbia University and worked as a part-time Grant Writer for the Workplace Project, Center for Labor Rights. He is part of the Deconstructing Stereotypes Project initiated in 2007 to help prevent violence in the school community through student action research on stereotypes and racism. Students present their findings and facilitate interactive workshops at the annual AUP Day of Dialogue student conference. Jorge is committed to developing critical thinking skills in the urban youth and teaches for social reform in our communities.

Diana Maria Isern is the 11th and 12th grade ESL teacher at the Academy of Urban Planning (AUP). She was born in New York and raised in Queens and Long Island. She majored in Political Science with a minor in Latin American Studies at Boston College in Massachusetts. Ms. Isern worked in an elementary school in Harlem last year, and worked other odd jobs since age 12! She loves teaching because students make her laugh every day, and there is no greater achievement than helping others learn something they need to succeed. When she is not at AUP, she likes to read, dance, listen to people, and travel to Puerto Rico.

Introduction to Latin American Studies
This course is designed to expose students to the richness of Latin American history by highlighting the accomplishments and legacies of ancient civilizations from the Latin American regions through research analysis and student projects. Students learn about the impact of colonialism in Latin American, its Independence movements as well as the fragmentation of South America in its post-Independence era. With the recent rise of the “new left” and the debate of various interpretations of this new leadership, students analyze and discuss the history and current situation of Latin America’s political movements ranging from the popularized movements, social reform movements and United States interventions. The course also focuses on modern political history discussing various social scientific explanations for the region’s economic, political, and social problems. Students embark on a final research paper and presentation discussing the impact of governmental policies on social reform in Latin American throughout its history using Chasteen’s book, Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America, as a guide along with various Latin American non-fiction books.

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