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|An Interview With Baye Kemit
What influence has Summerbridge had on the curriculum at The Garvey School?
One of the aspects of the Summerbridge program that I was strongly attracted to and that I have
adopted into my platform for students is preparation for college. We have a strong push for college
preparatory work and exposure to college information in general. Just today, we took our tenth
graders to a black college fair, and annually, for the last 5 years, I have done an historical black
college tour, taking the students to visit those colleges along the east coast, including Baltimore, D.C.,
Virginia, North Carolina, and Atlanta. In additional to traditional colleges I feel that it is also important
for our children to be familiar with those colleges which were founded, shaped, and developed for
students of color. Summerbridge helped me to understand how important it is have a program where
we are training and preparing students for the next level which is college.
How does your schools’ African centered curriculum accommodate multicultural issues?
There are so many aspects of African culture that our children need to learn and know about that will
not only connect them to other races but will connect them with other cultures within the African
culture. For example, if we are studying WWII we would not only talk about the war in its dynamic
scope but we would also talk about how the war related to African American soldiers, how that played
out with regards to African Diaspora, how the war played out, in France, and all over the world. So we
are still studying other cultures, but yet we are always bringing it back to the students focus and their
understanding so that they can see how they fit into the puzzle of multiculturalism. In comparison, I
have yet to see a multicultural curriculum that is equally multicultural. While they may be inclusive of
other cultures they are not balanced, they are told through one dominant voice, whether American or
European. Our curriculum connects to every other culture from the voice of the African American
What aspects of Summerbridge did you find most dynamic and have they influenced
the planning and curriculum at The Garvey School?
Most significant is bringing in high school and college students and training them how to teach by
giving them hands-on experience running a classroom and the opportunity to experience the
mechanics of teaching. Learning how to write lesson plans, practice classroom management, even to
learn how to effectively use a chalk board--these are skills most beginning teachers would only learn
from a mentor teacher during a student teaching experience, and the quality of that experience is
dependent upon the skills of that one teacher. I have thought about starting a Summerbridge
program here (in Trenton) at Garvey. It is significant that Summerbridge is a year round program
helping children stay focused and supporting families. Because of limited resources and the demands
of getting the school up and running I have hired college students to teach during a summer program
which is both academic and extracurricular.
In what ways might the Summerbridge Breakthrough Alumni Network support your
Primarily through networking; connecting with grant opportunities to fund the program. Finding ways
that I can share information with other schools about things that are successful in our school and
learn about their successes.
Did Summerbridge provide you with an opportunity to develop leadership skills?
Yes, most definitely. Working as the Dean of Student Discipline gave me the background and
experience of mediating between teachers and students, parents and teachers, and sometimes
parents and students. I was the contact person for all of the behavioral issues that took place in the
school. If a student was written up for behavior I had to mediate. If a student had a problem with a
teacher and felt that they could not communicate with them then I had to articulate that students’
issue to the teacher. That gave me the background to handle situations on an administrative level.
What are your feelings regarding the current emphasis on standardized tests as the
sole measure of student learning?
Standardized tests provide marginal information but using other means to assess learning abilities is
a more comprehensive approach. There should be portfolios, oral presentations and other ways for
students to demonstrate their understanding of a certain content area. There are students who are
performing artists or creative artists who are not as competitive in the day to day math, science, social
studies, language arts, but they are geniuses in their particular art. Students such as these are
prevented from succeeding in traditional public schools because the schools don’t teach to their