Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Diversity in solidarity: student action with farmworkers’ archive of intern writing (1995-2005)

Each summer, Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) interns, half of whom come from farmworking families, spend ten weeks in North and South Carolina communities interning with agencies such as health clinics and legal aid offices whose clients include migrant and seasonal farmworkers. SAF uses a participatory, praxis-based pedagogy to teach these students to act in solidarity with farmworkers and to continually reflect upon their action. Starting in 1995, as part of their reflection, these students have written weekly guided reports, and since 1999, two-thirds of the students have completed folklife documentary projects with farmworker participants. In this community-based research study, I have worked in collaboration with SAF staff to analyze their archive of student work. This study discusses the generative themes that students have dealt with in this work, including themes of identification with farmworkers, awareness of injustice and the burden of deciding to do with that awareness, frustration with racism and exploitation in the rural south, questions about one’s own ability to make a difference, and through the documentary projects deepening knowledge gained from farmworkers themselves. This study also compares the broader practices that SAF seeks to instill in students with the written work they assign. Departing from dominant literacy practices in U.S. schools, SAF encourages non-textual expression, bilingualism or even monolingual Spanish, and collective expression. Writing is one among the tools that SAF gives students to reflect and witness, not itself an essential tool for all interns. SAF interns reflect in other ways, and staff translate interns’ reflections and writing of witness into their public work of advocacy. Drawing upon focus groups with staff and former interns, this study suggests that in the future, SAF will preserve both reflection and witnessing and also continue to experiment with their writing practices to reach more interns. SAF’s work can serve as a model for other educators working in campus-community collaborations, non-profit associations doing activist work, and classrooms that invite students to look beyond scholarly work for knowledge. In particular, SAF teaches its interns to value diversity in solidarity, which leads to uses of writing that promote individual reflection and collective expression.