Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Fingers Crossed For July

I submitted a proposal to return to the Congo this summer to work in the camp - wish me luck! Here is the proposal:

High School Initiative
Mole Camp
July 2016

Submitted by
Michael Morsches
English Language Specialist
April 27, 2016

Last summer, May through July, I worked in the Mole camp through a combined project with the US State Department and the UNHCR. My project was to help establish English programs in the camp. In the process of doing so, we recognized a dramatic need for a secondary curriculum. At this point, the camp has not had a functioning secondary curriculum for many years. While working there last year, I identified a significant group of refugee teachers who, with a degree of support, could create and sustain an effective secondary school. With their assistance, we created a primary school English program, a teaching academy, and a girls’ empowerment initiative. I believe the project is viable, as we implemented a Conflict Resolution curriculum last summer for adults and the turnout was very promising. The last component of a comprehensive educational system will be the establishment of a secondary school curriculum – they have the personnel who can teach and lead the program with minimum external support. Finally, the ongoing programs developed in the camp last summer offer great encouragement for the continued viability of educational programming in the camp.

Proposed Program:
An English Language Specialist (Michael Morsches) and a Math/Science Specialist (Patrick Lohan) would travel to the Mole camp, preferably in July, 2016, for a three week program. The initiative would have two components: 1) The refugee teachers would have basic pedagogical training that would focus on lesson planning, instruction, and assessment, and 2) The refugee teachers would receive content-specific training in World History, Algebra, Introductory Calculus, Biology, and Chemistry. The two training components will be in the form of active workshops with the refugee teachers practicing their skills with actual students. Finally, the refugee teachers will have ongoing access to the two specialists (and other US teachers) after the summer program, as this is one piece of the project commitment from several of our host schools, including Moraine Valley Community College.

Host Schools:
The following schools are committed to supporting this project with in-kind contributions:

Moraine Valley Community College – Chicago, Illinois
Sul Ross University – Alpine, Texas
The University of Akron – Akron, Ohio
Garrett High School – Garrett, Indiana

In-Kind Contributions:
The following are in-kind contributions we will bring to the project:
1)      Five textbook sets (Five textbooks each set) for World History, Algebra, Introductory Calculus, Biology, and Chemistry to be shipped in May.
2)      Classroom supplies such as paper, notebooks, pens, pencils, and classroom posters to be shipped in May.
3)      A few microscopes and assorted slides to be shipped in May.
4)      Release time (three weeks) for the Dean of Learning Enrichment and College Readiness (Michael Morsches) and Lead Tutor (Patrick Lohan)
5)      Ongoing teacher support in lesson planning, instruction, assessment, and subject-matter content.
6)      Ongoing English resources for all programs in the camp.

Proposed Timeframe:
The timeframe for the project would be from Mid-May through the end of July, 2016:

Mid-May – Ship resources to the DRC (possibly through diplomatic pouch) so that they are on site by July 1, 2016

July 2 through July 24 – Program at Mole (including two days at each end of the project in Kinshasa).

August 2016 and onward – Teacher support from Host Schools

Requested Resources:
We would request the following resources from the grant:

1)      Assistance in shipping the project books and resources from Washington to the DRC, preferably through diplomatic pouch.
2)      Hotel accommodations for two in Kinshasa for four days.
3)      Per diem for two for 25 days.
4)      Stipend for two at $250 per day for 25 days.
5)      Transport for two, to and from Zongo.
6)      Hotel accommodations for two for 21 days in Zongo.
7)      Daily transport for two to and from Mole from Zongo.
8)      Travel incidentals (e.g., vaccinations, travel insurance, medication)

Estimated Budget:
The following are estimated costs (excluding our in-kind contributions)

1)      Airfare to the DRC - $4,000
2)      Hotel accommodation Kinshasa (one shared room, four days) - $1,000
3)      Per diem - $2,500
4)      Stipend - $12,500
5)      Travel to Zongo – unknown
6)      Zongo hotel accommodations – unknown, perhaps provided by the UNHCR
7)      Transport to and from Mole – unknown, perhaps provided by the UNHCR
8)      Shipping from Washington D.C. – unknown
9)      Travel incidentals - $750
Total Estimated Costs - $20,750
Total Estimated In-Kind Contributions - $3000

The project I participated in last summer was very successful, and is currently flourishing. I observed then, the desperate need for an active secondary school program for the older students in the camp (see attached white paper submitted by Bryce Smedley and Michael Morsches). The internal structures of the camp and the existing personnel are the strongest components of this proposal. I have full support of the camp committee and the refugee teachers for this project, as well as dedicated support from several American schools. My school, Moraine Valley Community College, has pledged its continued ongoing support to the programs in the camp. I believe that this project will be the beginning of a long and healthy collaboration between the camp and our US host schools.

1)      White Paper – Expanding ECA – State Department English Language Programs to Refugee Camps
2)      Final Report – Summer 2016 programs
3)      Vita – Michael Morsches, English Language Specialist

4)      Resume – Patrick Lohan, Math/Science Specialist

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Very Special Nomination :)

I found out recently that several of our faculty and staff nominated me for the Embracing Diversity Award. I was very touched an honored. I had won a similar award at Akron several years ago, and it is nice to be continually recognized for my efforts. The nomination is a bit flawed though, as it really fails to mention how much almost everyone in our department and college care about and serve all students, including those who are more vulnerable. Despite my typical grumblings about things, our community gets it right when it comes to human dignity. We have more to do and can do a better job recognizing and celebrating our large and vibrant Arab population, but progress is forth coming. I normally don't post nominations, but this one is very special to me and reminds me of all of the good people I interact with every day.

How does the nominee embrace diversity?

We fully and without reservation nominate Michael Morsches for the Embracing Diversity Award. Michael Morsches has served as the Dean of Learning Enrichment and College Readiness (LECR) for four years. His department includes students within the English as a Second Language Program, General Education Development (GED®), Intensive English Language Program, Tutoring and the Volunteer Literacy Program.
Michael’s intuitive style of inclusion is a product of a lifetime of active international engagement. Michael served tours as a Peace Corps literacy volunteer in Jamaica and an ESL volunteer instructor in Yemen. His greatest accomplishment was building a school in his oppressively hot post in coastal Yemen for Eritrean refugees who fled civil war in Ethiopia. Michael later served as an associate Peace Corps director in Tanzania, and as an administrator for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  In Omaha, Michael worked to bring educational materials to underserved developing world communities. These experiences have laid the foundation for work that Michael has done during his time at Moraine Valley Community College in the area of diversity.
Michael wasted no time organizing programs for students on the margins. Michael designed an English conversation group that currently spans four hours on Saturday and four hours on Sunday each weekend. The conversation group incorporates members of the immigrant community along with participants in MVCC’s English language programs. These conversation groups provide diverse students the opportunity to practice their English in a comfortable and friendly environment. It is common for Michael to have as many as sixty students per weekend who learn about American culture, who talk about their homelands, and who ultimately belong to Moraine Valley’s family of learners. For some of these students, Michael’s group offers the only contact that they have with English speakers, and certainly the only non-judgmental setting they have to learn to be productive members in American society.
Michael frequently tutors a variety of students who are struggling with academic content. Michael’s vast knowledge of cognition-strategies provides a potent remedy for students that struggle in content areas such as math and English. Michael was instrumental in the success of recent student Tremayne Harmon. Michael tutored Mr. Harmon faithfully on his road to obtaining a GED. For Mr. Harmon, the stakes were high. Failure on the GED also meant he would lose his job on the railroad, which would have spelled disaster for Mr. Harmon and his family. Michael also works diligently with MVCC’s English language learners. Michael tutored a student from Palestine in philosophy, and he currently works with a young student from Myanmar who struggles in math. Michael’s input in regards to textbook selection in Developmental Education, geared with the English language learner in mind, is instrumental for student success.
Michael served as the Muslim Student Association advisor for two years, working closely with the group and providing students of faith a Muslim mentor whose unique path to Islam was largely different than their own. Michael often counsels Arab students who find a receptive audience for some of their struggles both academic and personal. Oftentimes, Michael provides the tough love, reassurance, and confidence these students need to function effectively at MVCC.
This past summer, Michael used his vacation time to travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and served as an educational liaison for the US State Department. As a global ambassador for Moraine Valley, Michael helped the refugees living in the Mole Camp set up English language instruction for those who have fled conflict in the neighboring Central African Republic. While there, Michael initiated weekly Skype conferences with Moraine Valley employees. During these Skype calls, employees here gained a better idea about African culture and the nature of struggle for African refugees, while those at the camp practiced their English and joined in academic fellowship with staff at Moraine Valley.

Michael Morsches leads a diverse staff at LECR where he encourages all employees to share their experiences during the Friday staff meetings. Carmela Ochoa, a LECR Secretary, recently shared her experiences as a student abroad in Tanzania and Jamaica with the unit. Michael continues to be at the forefront of diversity activism on campus:  there is no greater champion for students of Color, English Language Learners, the disenfranchised, and any student who reaches out in times of need. Michael not only embraces diversity, but he is also an active agent who aims to broaden the minds of others. For these reasons, we nominate Michael Morsches for Moraine Valley Community College’s Embracing Diversity Award.