It’s been a full year at Aquinas, and your generosity has made it possible. Please click HERE to find our spring newsletter, in many mailboxes now.
As Chair of the Aquinas Board of Directors, I wanted to take the time to introduce myself, and share what I think makes the organization so unique.
When I came to the United States as an immigrant from Argentina at the age of 8, my family was seeking better opportunities from political instability and economic inequality. We made a home in this country, buoyed by connections we made along the way that helped sustain us through the challenges we encountered, by individuals and institutions that provided insights into navigating unfamiliar systems. When I became a teacher working with immigrant and multilingual students, I was committed to cultivating a classroom community that honored children’s diverse knowledge and provided equal access to a good education. As a teacher educator and educational researcher, I can help support others in expanding this work. Since 2010, I have been involved at Aquinas with my colleague Gerald Campano and graduate students from the University of Pennsylvania, conducting participatory research into educational access with families and youth. A book on our project, Partnering with Immigrant Communities: Action through Literacy, co-written with Aquinas Center Director Bethany Welch, has been recognized with two awards from prestigious educational organizations.
Like many of you, I feel blessed to have been a part of the transformational work at Aquinas Center. My experience has been one window into the unique values and practices at Aquinas:
- Congregation: People working together across boundaries (institutions, languages, cultures, and experiences) to come together at a shared table – learning from each other’s stories and building connections. In our project, these conversations have been about educational access—the obstacles families and youth face, how they are overcoming them, and how these experiences can help support others.
- Knowledge and Advocacy: All involved at Aquinas bring important knowledge to be leveraged in bringing about change—whether knowledge of how immigration impacts education, what the layout of school opportunities are in the city, or how to navigate the school admissions process. We’ve partnered with Aquinas Center to learn to research together how to amplify the advocacy work already happening on the ground, and to get the word out to others to foster educational change.
Education is one important arena of the work happening at Aquinas, and you see that across the many activities that have been flourishing over the years: youth doing research on social justice issues that affect them, ESOL courses where participants learn to use language to meet their own purposes and goals, college access initiatives that support students with their applications, programming where youth themselves and educate others on the complexities of immigration, neighborhood change, socioeconomic precarity, and racial justice. Aquinas is not just providing programming to address educational inequities – it’s helping students, families, and community members as they themselves lead others in identifying problems and finding solutions.
As you likely have experienced, at Aquinas learning from others and giving to others is intertwined. It’s bidirectional. Your support helps us create the conditions for learning together and working in solidarity to co-create a more human, loving, and just world. Please help us continue this work by making a contribution before the end of our fiscal year on June 30th.
As always, you can donate online HERE or send a check to: Aquinas Center, 1700 Fernon Street, Philadelphia, PA 19145. Your donation is tax deductible and goes directly to the work of the center.
María Paula Ghiso
Chair, Aquinas Center Board of Directors
Associate Professor of Education
Teachers College, Columbia University