School Turns AP Literature into Social Justice Service

Rooted in a unique spin from their AP English class, students at Randall K. Cooper High School experienced service learning in a new light. The students chose two literary works they studied in high school that have same social injustice issue prevalent. Thereafter spinning it into a service opportunity. One of the works must have been one they read during their time in AP English Literature class this year. Students worked to bring about awareness to their chosen injustice through partnerships with community organizations. Other than the mentioned guideline, students independently lead their respective projects. In total, there were eight different social injustice projects in collaboration with Redwood School, Women’s Crisis Center, NKY Hates Heroin, Boone County Animal Shelter, and Stephens Elementary.

One group used Hamlet and Of Mice and Men as driving factors in their service learning project. This is because in Hamlet, Ophelia becomes mentally ill after her father passes away, and in Of Mice and Men, Lennie Small has a mental disability as well. From those two books, they decided to draw awareness to the social injustices regarding people with disabilities, both mental and physical. The group wanted to break down the boundaries between “normal” people and those with differences. Their group believed that people with disabilities deserve to grow and thrive throughout their lives just as they’ve had the opportunity. They worked closely with Redwood School, a place that guides children and adults with severe and multiple disabilities to achieve independence and reach their highest potential throughout their lives, by providing enriching educational, therapeutic, and vocational services, and created life changing partnerships.

Another group chose to address the issue of the working poor. They used the themes of financial struggle and social separations prevalent in Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men to inspire their service learning project. The students worked with the Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless to learn more about this issue; an organization that advocates for affordable housing and protects the dignity of the homeless and working poor, as well as exposes the subtle ways higher ups attempt to oppress them.

The students of Randall K. Cooper were very impacted by their experiences in service learning. They found it to have been a journey of collaboration, thought, and care in order to construct something that will allow an organization to help others.