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A Place like Home: Amera Porter-Watterson ’22 at Critical Exploration Press & South End Technology Center in Boston

Over this co-op, I’ve had a lot of new experiences. I’ve lived with new people. I’ve been in new places. I’ve learned new things. I’ve done my absolute best throughout this whole experience. As I near the end of this journey, I’ve thought a lot about what I want to do with my life and how I’ll make it to where I want to be.

I’ve worked in two places this co-op. I helped an alumnus of Antioch and a few of her Harvard colleagues continue to develop a platform to share educational information about Critical Exploration and the work of Eleanor Duckworth. We explored a lot of videos, articles, dissertations and qualifying papers around pedagogy and teaching the development of student understanding. Critical Exploration pedagogy centers around not memorizing questions but instead developing understanding. It’s something I’d never heard of and have developed quite an interest in.

I have also been working at the South End Technology Center. It is much like a place I attended back home in Houston called Workshop Houston. SETC is a place where students with an interest in technology can go and learn things like the 3D printing, laser cutting and coding. It was created by Mel King, a civil rights activist in Boston. SETC was the first Fabrication Labs that gave free resources to low income students in Boston.

Everyone has the ability to learn but not everyone has the resources. Workshop Houston is an after school and summer program in Third Ward, Houston, TX that offers learning in fashion design, music making and academic assistance. It is a completely free program. I went to Workshop for eight years. It is the first place I visit when I get home for breaks. I even had the opportunity to work there this last December teaching graphic design. It was great experience, and I felt like I’ve really made an impact.

Everyone at SETC celebrating a students birthday with cake baked personally by

SETC is like the STEM vision of Workshop but much more. It isn’t every day but it is a job for low income students in high school and college in the South End of Boston. The students there have an opportunity to learn new skills and get paid for it. In the summer, they teach middle schoolers the skills they’ve perfected over the school year and, hopefully, a few middle schoolers will come and work at SETC in the future. It’s a beautiful cycle.

The environment is homey. The students are quick to introduce themselves and be friendly. They are constantly practicing teaching a different technology and helping each other learn new things. All of the resources are maintained and overseen by in-house staff that are there preparing even on the days that students are not in attendance. It’s reminds me so much of where I come from. We even went to the reopening of another place that is important to the community and donated art. It has been so fun making and learning with them and even simply hanging out.

During December back in Houston, I taught a group of middle schoolers how to use Adobe Illustrator, after having taught myself a few skills. Within two weeks, we had a collaborative Christmas sweatshirt design that everyone helped with. It was one of the proudest moments for me as a student and an artist. During that experience and the experiences I’ve had with SETC and CEPress, I’ve realized that I didn’t hate teaching. I hated school. I love helping people learn, take an interest and develop new skills. My shoulders peek with pride and I can say “Look at what my kids did.” It’s something that gets lost within the schooling system. I know that I may not be able to fix it, but supporting these small organizations, keeping them accessible to the youth and the people who really need it, is going to make the world a much more creative place.

I know I want to be an artist and I know my next co-op should be closer to that field, but I also know that I want to create something that teaches people. I want my stories and my art to be meaningful. How? I’m not sure, yet, but like I’ve done here—I want to do my very best to make my life worth something. Something special.

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