Cinthya Maldonado ’23

Pittsfield Public Schools, Pittsfield, MA

I worked for the NAACP Berkshire County Chapter on research and curriculum development. The organization advocates for progressive change through collection of data, dissemination of information, influencing policy and being timely in their response to major issues of injustice in the Berkshires.

As a team, we are working on preparing a diverse collection of novels for students in grades K-HS. Our work stemmed from lack of representation in literature, which is a serious issue when we consider that both what our youth see and don’t see in books can reinforce racial biases and keep youth from being exposed to differences, hindering them from developing compassion for others. It is especially imperative that we provide books that positively depict the identities of our youth of color, and youth with identities that are not represented the way they deserve. As a psychology major, I was able to use my academic background given that literature is essential in developing cognitive skills and in developing attitudes about culture.

We worked to catalog the books by grade format and used resources from previous educational experiences to research new diverse books. We examined the pre-approved novels and created a comprehensive list of identities, cultural representations, and historical events that were not currently taught as part of the English curriculum. As a team we made adjustments to our reports, and reformulated assignments according to the topic we were focused on that week. This internship has helped me learn how to work on my own, independently research, and collaborate with other instructors in the educational field.

Working on curriculum development provided me with the opportunity to meet with several administrators and educators and discuss their career paths. It has allowed me to reflect and gain insight on my possibilities for post graduate work and career orientation. Overall, I felt that after attending committee meetings about equity and diversity, board meetings regarding curriculum and benchmark assessments, and hearing the perspectives of educators, I have gained a fundamental understanding of the field and the multitude of barriers that have to be overcome to implement diverse literature.

I am thankful to Ms. Anne Burleigh and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for providing me with this opportunity. After having completed this internship and been part of the team that developed a project with a focus on representation and marginalized identities that will be implemented in schools across the district, I feel honored to have been a part of its initiation and development. More than ever, I understand the importance of diverse representation in literature in an educational setting especially in middle school and high schools where children will be profoundly impacted and are beginning to develop their individual opinions.