Aquinas Center at the Nexus of Collaborative Community-Based Research

Penn GSE NEWSROOM• Posted December 4, 2017

The idea of researchers “collaborating” with a community is a common one, but Gerald Campano, Penn GSE associate professor of literacy and culture, believes that it is often a hollow term. His mission has been to create deep, long-term collaborations for community-based research that are a genuine and equal sharing of knowledge.

The work of these rich collaborations has been time consuming, but the Penn GSE research team and the South Philadelphia families and youth they are involved with are beginning to be recognized for their labors. A book, Partnering with Immigrant Communities: Action Through Literacy, was awarded the 2017 Edward B. Fry Book Award by the Literacy Research Association on December 1. Additionally, the group has received a $400,000 Spencer Foundation grant, considered by many to be the most prestigious in the field of education.

Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, chair of the Literary Research Association award committee, and associate professor of English education at Columbia University, wrote the acceptance letter to the authors. “Partnering with Immigrant Communities advances literacy by focusing on the ways in which diverse communities cooperate across linguistic, discursive, and social boundaries in order to articulate a vision of educational justice and immigrant rights,” she wrote.

Sealey-Ruiz goes on to explain that the book occupies an important place, less focused on literacy practices of a specific cultural community, and more focused on “the role that literacy plays in bringing a multiplicity of overlapping communities and intersectional identities together to learn from one another and advocate for change.”

Campano, whose own grandfather was a migrant laborer from the Mindanao region of the Phillipines, believes that the award is validating. “I am particularly proud of the book. It represents a lot of collaborative work over time with many people involved,” he said.

The Penn GSE team works closely with the Aquinas Center, located on the campus of the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church on Morris Street, where mass is celebrated in four languages—English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Indonesian—reflecting the diverse community it serves. The Center’s mission is to “build unity and diversity, support learning, and inspire thoughtful action.”

Read more about the Collaborative Community Based Research Aquinas Center and Penn GSE engages in: