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Making Civics Real Workshop 2: Electoral Politics  
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Workshop 2

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Lesson Plan: Context

Jose E. Velazquez teaches in the social studies department at University High School of the Humanities in Newark, New Jersey. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in Harlem in New York City, Jose Velazquez has taught in the Newark Public Schools since 1987. Since 1997, he has taught United States History, African-American Studies, Latino Studies, Sociology, and Law in Action at University High School. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Columbia University in New York, and has completed certification programs in bilingual education at Kern College, master teaching at the Princeton Center for Leadership Training, and critical thinking at Montclair State University, all in New Jersey. Jose Velazquez also has been a cab driver, journalist, student organizer, actor, and neighborhood youth counselor.

University High School of the Humanities is a small academic community, offering a strong curriculum in the humanities and the sciences. It was founded in 1969 as School Within A School (SWAS) to provide college preparatory classes to Newark students. In 1977—when it became a school rather than a program—it changed its name to University High School to indicate both its purpose and proximity to major universities. Students face a battery of standardized tests and must submit recommendations, including one from their elementary school guidance counselor. This admissions process has produced a student body composed of young people who have demonstrated academic motivation, intellectual curiosity, and high achievement during their elementary school years. The humanities focus of the school stresses life-long learning. Teachers hope that students will return to the community after college and make a political, social, and cultural impact on the area.

The program features seniors in Jose Velazquez’s Law in Action course. The lesson culminates a 12-week unit developed by the national Student Voices Project, which took place in all high schools in Newark, New Jersey, during the spring 2002 semester, and culminated in the 2002 Newark mayoral election. Student Voices encourages the civic engagement of young people by bringing the study of a local political campaign into the classroom. Participating teachers typically devote one class period per week to the project. Classes meet daily for 42 minutes.

Student Voices is an initiative of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, with funding from the Annenberg Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. Student Voices projects have been implemented in Los Angeles, San Antonio, Detroit, New York, Tulsa, and Seattle, in addition to Newark.


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