UrbanPromise Trenton (UPT) Academic Program Director Michael Lovaglio, MDiv/MA ’09, describes Princeton Seminary student interns as “vital educators” for Trenton-area youth. The students intern at UPT as part of their field education.
In a city like Trenton, with one of the lowest graduation rates in the state of New Jersey, “the classroom experience that PTS students bring is crucial in helping schools control the classroom environment and find creative ways for our students to enjoy learning,” Lovaglio says.
The mission of UPT, a nondenominational organization, is to equip children and teens with necessary skills for academic achievement, spiritual growth, and leadership rooted in the principles of Christian faith. It provides after-school programs, summer camps, job training, and other programs that help kids from first to 12th grades achieve their potential.
One challenge for Seminary students is the “cultural friction” that may arise when people from privileged backgrounds interact with youth who are facing difficult circumstances. “It’s important to learn what our students will relate to and understand their perspective,” Lovaglio says.
Sarah Caley, a student intern, has managed to navigate this challenge well. She recounts how surprised she was to discover on her first day of teaching the Bible that none of the children had heard the Creation story. She adapted by overhauling the curriculum.
“It’s been eye opening, particularly for a white middle class Christian girl, to see the reality of what their lives are like on daily basis; to see kids who know nothing about the Bible, grace, and forgiveness,” she says.
Caley is working toward her master’s in Christian education and advises other Seminary students to keep open minds going into their field education experiences.
“You have a real chance to learn from and make deep connections with people, and the best way to do that is to listen and be teachable,” she says.