Coexist: Working Towards Inclusion & Mutual Respect

by Diana Santana

Inclusion, as the act of taking in as part of a whole, was first coined with the goals of providing advocacy, awareness, and support for individuals with disabilities who have been socially excluded merely based on their impairments. Inclusion, however, does not stop with the social injustices within people with disabilities. According to community psychologists Nelson and Prilleltensky (2010), “Inclusion is becoming an organizing principle that applies broadly to people who have been discriminated against and oppressed by virtue of gender, sexual orientation, ethnoracial background, abilities, age, or some other characteristics” (p. 137). The authors of Community Psychology: In Pursuit of Liberation and Well-Being, claim that inclusion can be conceptualized in three levels, individual, relational, and societal level. At the individual level, Nelson and Prilleltensky (2010) state that inclusion demands regaining control of a positive personal and political identity; while, at the relational level, inclusion means welcoming and supporting communities and building relationships within the same. In the same way, at the societal level, inclusion is advocates for the promotion of equity and access to social resources that are known for being denied to minorities or oppressed people.

Why inclusion is important? When we do not promote inclusion, whether it is in our community, school or work setting, and at a personal level, we are allowing oppression to take place instead -especially, psychological oppression. Psychological oppression affects individuals’ self-esteem by creating this false idea that they are undeserving of social and community resources, and to have low expectations on themselves (Nelson and Prilleltensky, 2010). How can we implement inclusion? The authors claim that one way of building community and inclusion is emphasizing similarity rather than difference, but having in consideration that these differences can be constructed. Either way, Nelson and Prilleltensky (2010) encourage community psychologists to not only work with organizations that fight for inclusion but also to work with underprivileged and diverse groups to find some balance between the wide-ranging methods towards the goal of inclusion; in brief, to coexist.

Your values, Our values

At the University of Massachusetts Lowell, we embrace inclusion and equity. As UML mission statement states,

“Diversity makes us stronger, and a community that values equity and inclusion enhance the educational experience…We are committed to cultivating a just community and sustaining an inclusive campus culture. We embrace diversity in its broadest forms and believe academic excellence and diversity are inseparable.”

I’m a proud UML alumna, now working towards my goals of becoming a double River Hawk. I also work for the university as a Graduate Assistant at the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA). This was the first year that they took the initiative to hire graduate students from the Community Social Psychology Master Program instead of taking the same path of hiring someone from Higher Ed… and I can’t complain about it! At OMA, I have a variety of duties, from advising and advocating for cultural or spiritual clubs, helping them with event planning and implementation, to unifying and leading or hosting OMA’s annual series, “Invisible Identity Series,” focused on hidden identities that exist in the UMass Lowell community.

The first of this year’s series, “Coexist: Mutual respect and understanding across different ideologies,” was hosted in October. We invited students from all the different religious or spiritual communities within our student body. Students who consider themselves as Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, and Catholic, joined us to talk about their experiences about discrimination and oppression based on their identity. Hate had No Home there. The room was filled with respect, love and understanding and, most importantly, with empathy. I love this job because it allows me to employ what I have been learning through my personal and academic experiences, and it promotes and supports the principles that we value the most, our values.


University Resources:


Have you been the victim or witness to an incident? You can anonymously report here:

UML Diversity Portal:


#UML #CommPsych



Geoffrey Nelson, Isaac Prilleltensky. (2010). Community Pasychology: In Pursuit of Liberation and Well-Being (2nd ed.). New York: Palgrave MacMillian

Autism in Communities: Considerations for the Inclusion of Individuals with Autism

The Center for Disease Control (2012) has found that the prevalence rate of autism in the United States is 1 in 68 children. Also, the organization, Autism Speaks (2017), notes that, each year, about 50,000 teenagers in the United States “age-out” of school-based services and must transition to adult-services. In Massachusetts and New Hampshire, students transition to adult services at the ages of 22 and 21, respectively, however, the transition age from school-based to adult services varies by state. When individuals with autism transition to adult services, they face several new challenges, such as, finding a job, creating a broader network of support beyond immediate family members (neighbors, co-workers, support staff, etc.), and participating and engaging in community activities. By considering an ecological approach, described by Nelson and Prilleltensky (2010), we can begin to consider ways in which communities can support the participation and engagement of individuals with autism as adult members of their communities.

Interdependence: At the micro level, relationships between individuals with autism and their family members must be considered. For most families, the transition from school-based to adult services can be daunting, and this causes stress as parents decide how their adult with autism will spend their time during the day. At the meso level, adults with autism begin to seek support and relationships from members of their community, such as neighbors or co-workers. At this stage, building a support network is crucial as individuals with autism begin to acquire jobs and/or seek alternate
living arrangements in the community. At the macro level, individuals with autism may seek out opportunities within the community, such as volunteer opportunities provided by day programs, community clubs, or town meetings. Communities may consider providing extra supports at the meso and macro levels to ensure individuals with autism are able to expand their support networks and be active members in their communities.
Cycling of Resources: Although it may seem that individuals with autism receive a significant amount of resources from adult-service programs (day-care, residential care, transportation, clubs, activities, financial resources, etc.), it is also important to consider the ways in which these individuals contribute to their communities. For example, individuals with autism are employed in several different settings, and they also work as volunteers as part of job training programs and adult day programs. In many cases, these individuals find niches within their communities and work in specialized roles at different work sites. Individuals with autism definitely receive resources and support from community programs, however, these resources can be better modified to enable these individuals to work within the community and become contributing members to the community’s economy.

Adaptation: As mentioned previously, the transition from school-based to adult services for individuals with autism can be very challenging for families, and also, for communities. Individuals with autism must adapt to new schedules, working vs. learning environments, and the limited services available to them as adults. On the other hand, communities must adapt to provide inclusive environments in work and community settings. When communities make a commitment to inclusion, they are supporting the engagement and integration of individuals with autism into community settings and activities.

Succession: A few decades ago, “autism” was an uncommon diagnosis, and many people did not know about autism or how to work with people with autism. In many cases, individuals with autism were institutionalized. Today, however, knowledge about this disorder has become more accessible and communities are better equipped to provide supports for individuals with autism. Instead of casting these individuals aside, communities can work towards providing job opportunities and support community engagement so that these individuals can become active and contributing members of society.

Over the past few decades, the outcome for individuals with autism has become more optimistic, and they play more active roles in their communities due to supports that are in place such as adult service programs, community programs, and employment opportunities. Although progress has been made in providing more resources to individuals with autism, communities can consider an ecological approach to furthering the integration of individuals with autism in communities (Nelson and Prilleltensky, 2010).

#UML #commpsych

Autism Speaks. (2017). What is autism. Retrieved from

CDC, Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring network. (2016). [Graph illustrating the prevalence of autism in the United States between 2000 and 2012]. Prevalence and Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2012. Retrieved from

Nelson, G., & Prilleltensky, I. (Eds.). (2010). Community psychology in pursuit of liberation and well-being. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan.

Homelessness: In the Pursue of a New Paradigms

by Diana Santana

Homelessness does not discriminate… Regardless of religious beliefs o not beliefs at all, no matter your race or ethnicity, socio-economic status, homelessness could affect anyone given the unexpected and difficult set of situations. A homeless person is, “an individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets; stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle; or in any other unstable or non-permanent situation” (National Health Care for the Homeless Council). Homelessness can be cause due to unexpected incidences or situations where a person not necessarily have the power to prevent it or control it; for instance, the loss of loved ones or their job, depression, mental illness, domestic violence and family disputes, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), physical disabilities, and natural disasters (Home Aid). Community psychologists work hard to provide healthier and productive lives to communities, while also promoting a sense of belonging and opportunities for social change. Homelessness is a social issue that has been addressed by community psychologists due to the issue being like a tree that unfortunately has many branches which can then ‘grow’ into creating not only issues within the individual who is experiencing homelessness but the community as a whole.


Community Psychologists and Homelessness: More than a Home

In the pursue of new paradigms, along with [mostly] non-profit organizations, community psychologists have been studying and addressing homelessness from every point of view; especially, using qualitative research as their method, “to understand the values, interests and meanings that underlie language, discourses, and texts” (Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2010, p.263). In simpler words, they place the values within individuals before the statistics. As part of a constructivist paradigm, community psychologists have the change to interact, learn from the homeless individuals’ experiences, as well as questioning what does this experience means to them in order to provide them with more support and other ways to fight for their right and human dignity. Nelson and Prilleltensky (2010) consider this paradigm as, “an approach that has more kinship with the humanities than the hard sciences” (2010, p. 262).

The Housing First model is a representation of a constructivism paradigm because it does not require people experiencing homelessness to address the all of their problems including behavioral health problems, or “to graduate through a series of services programs before they can access housing” (National Alliance to End Homelessness). Using a local example, there are some other organizations, such as House of Hope, Lowell Transitional Living Center, Girls Inc, Alternative House (and so forth) that also promote this paradigm. Taking UTEC’s Streetworker program as an example, they provide workforce development and educational services to at-risk young men/women (ages 16-24). UTEC works aside with community partners to help these young individuals to get into a stable housing, as well as providing addiction treatment programs. Overall, community programs and organizations, as well as community psychologists adopt this method to not only helping the most vulnerable ones with offering a roof over their heads, but the opportunity to be heard and helped in a more individual, personal way. In brief, to keep perusing new paradigms to end homelessness, one community at a time.


#UML #CommPsych


Diana Santana is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell



Geoffrey Nelson, Isaac Prilleltensky. (2010). Community Pasychology: In Pursuit of Liberation and Well-Being (2nd ed.). New York: Palgrave MacMillian.



Fourth and Long: Time to Go Inches!

by Josh Vlahakis

The road to social justice is a never-ending path that splits into innumerable different directions; take a right and you are on pace to contribute to the termination of world hunger, take a left and you may just find the cure for all cancer. Ah, yes, what we have here is a general perception when it comes to fighting social justice: it comes down to influential heroes who are going to do something extraordinary to save the day.


Yes, the world needs those courageous enough to lead and to do so by example. However, social injustice is not something that can be tackled alone. Oftentimes it seems that when people want to do good for others, they want to do so on such a substantial level, almost to the point where it seems like they are doing it for themselves rather than the group or subgroup for which they are advocating, a point that is vividly illustrated in Prilleltensky’s (2001) analysis of praxis derived from values.


In order to distinguish oneself from the masses, he or she may strive to construct a social identity (Scott & Wolfe, 2015) of being a savior. I find that this topic is worth writing about at all because we would all be so much better at properly and effectively addressing social inequity if we adopted a more community-based mindset.


We need to focus on inches, not touchdowns; we need to focus on hitting the ball out of the infield to allow the runner to tag up from third base, not hitting grand slams. As Foster-Fishman et al. (2006) demonstrated, little victories are of utmost importance because they can lead into wins on a larger scale. I am not taking anything away from anyone who dreams big, from anyone who believes revolutionary change is possible.


All I’m saying is that we need to start small before we can go big. I learned this invaluable lesson from volunteering at the Restaurant Opportunities Center in the summer of 2016. My team did a phenomenal job of demonstrating to me the importance of volunteerism. In just a few months, I was not able to single-handedly create any policy change that positively impacts restaurant workers, but I was able to help collect a substantial amount of data that are have been released in what is now the most comprehensive report on the state of Greater Boston’s restaurant industry ever released.


With the United States arguably more concerned about national security than ever before, we have to ask ourselves the most efficient ways to go about protecting ourselves. I argue that positively impacting just one person could spare the world from having to experience another traumatic event. Even if it is as simple as saying hello to someone you don’t know, it could significantly influence one’s way of thinking in a positive direction.


I am an advocate for quality, unconventional human interaction because I believe that the world will be a much better place by everyone’s standards if we all took the time to practice our reflexivity. As Foster-Fishman et al. (2006) posit, “in order to build a healthy community, an active citizen base is needed” (p. 143). Even though there are billions of people in this world, we cannot succumb to the power of the diffusion of responsibility. It is up to every single one of us to do our part in making absolutely certain that this world is as close to our envisioned utopias as it possibly can be.


I am doing this by expressing sincerity in my emotions, by being honest with myself and those around me, by smiling to everyone I see. I constantly ask myself: what can I do better?


How are you doing this? What can you do better?


One step at a time…


#UML #CommPsych #littlewins



Josh Vlahakis is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology master’s program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell



Foster-Fishman, P. G., Fitzgerald, K., Brandell, C., Nowell, B., Chavis, D., & Van Egeren, L. A. (2006). Mobilizing residents for action: The role of small wins and strategic supports. American journal of community psychology, 38(3-4), 143-152.

Prilleltensky, I. (2001). Value‐Based Praxis in Community Psychology: Moving Toward Social Justice and Social Action. American journal of community psychology, 29(5), 747-778.

Scott, V. C., & Wolfe, J. K. (2015). Community psychology: Foundations for practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Where Do Trauma Studies Fit in Community Psychology?

Jeremy Laporte

For several months, I have been considering the place of trauma in community psychology. These thoughts were sensible, considering the events occurring in my life over that time. I recently left a job in the mental health field where I often had knowledge of my clients’ trauma experiences and witnessed the effects firsthand. This experience piqued my interest in psychological trauma. I hoped to investigate the topic further as I started graduate school for community psychology. As I became more familiar with both concepts, however, I began to doubt whether this was possible. Trauma tends to be defined in terms of the individual, while community psychology, by definition, looks at larger contexts. Fortunately, a section on child maltreatment in an article (Prilleltensky, 2001) changed my thinking. The section detailed how this problem, which is undoubtedly enacted on an individual level, can be tied to larger social forces. As such, I intend to use this post to explore the relationship between trauma and community psychology’s values of personal, relational, and collective well-being.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) includes a negative effect on individual well-being in the definition for trauma found on their website. (“Trauma and Violence”, 2017) This website also shows a potential role for relational well-being when discussing trauma. It indicates that the negative behavioral and mental health effects of trauma can impact an individual’s relationships, namely with their family members. Further, it points to the importance of social support in mitigating these negative effects. Strong, supportive relationships can empower a person to continue with their lives after a traumatic experience with little impact to their functioning. Thus, healthy relational well-being is an important factor in trauma’s impact on individual well-being. This also provides a possible area of intervention for community psychology. The field provides techniques for increasing and strengthening social connections. If individuals in a particular community are likely to experience traumatic events, these interventions may lessen the effects of these experiences.

Tying trauma to collective well-being is more difficult. While the behavioral changes (substance abuse, aggression, etc.) that may result from traumatic experiences will likely have a negative impact on the community, this is still the outcome of trauma’s effects on individual well-being. However, unhealthy collective well-being can produce trauma, as conditions such as community violence are tied to traumatic experiences. Further, certain types of trauma, such as domestic violence and child neglect, can be tied to social conditions like poverty. Therefore, community psychology’s pursuit of social justice plays a role in decreasing traumatic experiences in disempowered populations. This framework is still overly focused on trauma as impacting individual well-being, though.

Fortunately, as detailed by Prilleltensky (2001), this is not an uncommon problem for community psychology, as the field generally struggles to direct equal attention to collective well-being. It does not necessarily remove trauma from the scope of community psychology, but opens the possibility for the field to expand on the concept using its unique values and vision. Keeping that author’s criticism in mind, then, it is important to investigate how trauma can directly impact collective well-being, rather than first affecting the well-being of individuals. Interestingly, the SAMHSA suggests the possibility of “historical trauma” (“Types of Trauma”, 2016), negative experiences that influence entire communities and can be transmitted across generations. In the United States, it is often associated with the experiences of oppressed racial groups who face violence and discrimination for their prescribed social identities. It suggests that trauma can affect collective well-being directly when negative experiences target communities as a whole rather than individual members. However, as long as trauma is defined in the individual terms mentioned previously, it is impossible to fit the concept into this framework. This suggests another role for community psychology to play in trauma studies: the ability to create a theory that redefines trauma in a way that allows for a direct impact to both individuals and groups of people.

#UML #commpsych


Jeremy Laporte is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell



Prilleltensky, I. (2001). Value-Based Praxis in Community Psychology: Moving Toward Social Justice and   Social Action. American Journal of Community Psychology. 29: 747-778

Trauma and Violence. (2017). Retrieved from

Types of Trauma and Violence. (2003) Retrieved from

“The Problem with Real Culture”

by Karleena Corey


Does the United States have a true and pure culture? In a country where we are a true melting pot of different cultures, there still seems to be extreme xenophobia, or fear of people from other countries. Xenophobia certainly has been heightened since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, especially Islamophobia, but xenophobia has always been an issue in the US. Unless you are a Native American, your family have emigrated from a different country, so why the pushback on immigration? I think most of us know the answer is racism, because there seems to only be an immigrant problem if you are an immigrant of color. This dates back to the the early 1900s when citizenship in the US was not granted to non-White citizens, and it was only recently in 1952 that immigrants of color were allowed to become naturalized citizens (Yakushko, 2009). The Middle Eastern, Caribbean, African, and South and Central American cultures are the cultures that are not “accepted” in the United States- where diversity is exactly what makes up our version of culture.

Bennett, C. (2015). The Melting Pot. Licensed under

In community psychology culture is defined as societal customs and values which lie outside the exosystem, where individuals do not participate, but have an indirect influence on (Cooper & Denner, 1998; Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2010). In other words, people living in the US are not purposefully influencing the culture, but do so just by existing in the community. Culture can also be developed from experience, therefore different parts of the US, and even different neighborhoods and communities, have distinct aspects of culture anyway. But, again, it is only a problem when it is a community of color that has different cultures from the mainstream, which in the US is White people, who have always been the dominant race (Yakushko, 2009). As the dominant race they are the in-group, and immigrants of color are the out-group, and the in-group is afraid of values, beliefs, and attitudes being challenged by foreigners (Yakushko, 2009). White immigrants inherit White privilege when they emigrate to the US, and are not discriminated against based on the color of their skin, and they are not seen as a threat (Yakushko, 2009). It is the cultural beliefs and values of those who physically look different that is the threat to the “US culture”.

What can we do to help? I believe that there is little hope in our current political and social climate to try and change the minds of people who are xenophobic, but rather what can we do to help the immigrants who live in fear in our country? Due to the pressure from natural-born US citizens to assimilate and leave behind their culture, immigrants actually do not always adjust in the US well (Yakushko, 2009). Also, immigrants tend to internalize the narratives that are often said about them (being lazy, stupid, etc.), which leads to feelings of worthlessness (Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2010). To empower and restore psychological well-being in the immigrant communities, community psychology would suggest that we help them be aware of their injustices, and help them understand the circumstances behind their oppression (Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2010). We need to make immigrants feel welcome and wanted by bringing them together, and working with them in our communities. We need to stand with immigrants in solidarity, and listen to what problems and oppressions they are facing. They are not alone. We are all real Americans.





Bennett, C. (2015, December 12). The Melting Pot [Cartoon]. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from

Cooper, C. R., & Denner, J. (1998). Theories linking culture and psychology: Universal and community-specific processes. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 559-584.

Nelson, G., & Prilleltensky, I. (2010). Community psychology: In pursuit of liberation and well  being (2nd ed.) New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Yakushko, O. (2009). Xenophobia: Understanding the roots and consequences of negative attitudes toward immigrants. The Counseling Psychologist, 37(1), 36-66. doi:  10.1177/0011000008316034

First Day at School

By Marcus Lithander


I just started school again. This time as a Ph.D.  student. This time in in the States. I’m almost as excited now as when I started school as a seven-year-old boy.

I feel very privileged to get the chance to develop as a researcher, and, to develop myself through being in a new culture. One thing that I always regretted from my undergraduate studies was that I didn’t join any exchange programs. I’m thinking to myself, why didn’t I try a new school? Why don’t switch it around?

During my first nine years, almost nothing switched. I’m lucky I was born close to a good school. Otherwise, I probably would have been stuck in a bad school for 9 years.

Otherwise, I probably would have been stuck in a bad school for 9 years.

This got me thinking about the school system and integration and desegregation. The school system is not integrated. Not on a micro level. Not on a school level. Not on a world level. You get it… Not in any level!

And this effect our learning. I stumbled upon a news article east side highs cool where 100% of the students are Black with a Cleveland High school where 45 % of the students are black.

100%! But what also struck me was when they interviewed one of the boys in Eastside High school:


It´s this side of the highway versus that side of the highway, it has just always been a rivalry a long time”

I couldn’t help myself from thinking of Muzafer Sherifs classicalRobbers Cave Experiment where you boys were the in-group formation and friction stage. It´s not in any way weird that students don’t want to disintegrate, does this mean that we should listen to them, of course not

“The independence day effect”

Happily, there is a third step integration stage, or as I like to call it “The independence day effect”. Why? an external threat! all humans on earth come together to fight for a common goal and this is exactly what Sherif means with his third stage, the integration stage.

When groups in a state of conflict are brought into contact under conditions embodying superordinate goals, which are compelling but cannot be achieved by the efforts of one group alone, they will tend to co-operate toward the common goals. (Sherif, 1967. p. 452)

How can this be implemented in communities and schools? Well as it happens we do have an external and common threat, global warming.

But how should this project be put together, as always social psychology has the answer!

In the 1970s in Austin had a huge problem with segregation within schools. One school decided to call in an expert, that expert was Elliot Aronson, professor of social psychology. He soon saw the same pattern has Sherif, inter-group hostility. He came up with the smart solution of the Jigsaw Classroom. A strategy where students switch between different groups, in some group, they are the learner and in some groups, they teach others. But every small group always have a small common exercise to solve together. Genius

The results of the strategy are stunning, both regarding integration and learning.

Again, I think back to those first school years. The first nine years in school I was in the same class. Not much switching and change of roles! There should be. Why don´t even try to make the jigsaw classroom into a jigsaw community? Why not send students to short exchange programs to other schools in the community?

But remember. The students don´t want to do it. Responsible guiding is needed. This needs to be regulated. Chaos through regulation.


#UML #commpsych


Marcus Lithander is a Ph.D student in Applied Psychology & Prevention Science at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.


Second-Gen Latinx: Rescuing Bilingualism

by Diana Santana

How come your children do not fluently speak Spanish like you do? When a person asked me this question a few years ago, I felt the need to stop to do some self-reflection to respond with a better answer than “It’s just easier…” I realized I was not raising my children to embrace my native language like my parents did before I moved to the United States. As a Latina mom who came to this country pursuing the so-called “American Dream” for the sake of her children, I knew that part of that dream would not be possible if I was not willing to fully-emerged using the most spoken language in this nation. However, as I was getting to know more immigrant parents and noticing how their children were being raised leaving their Spanish behind, I started educating myself to educate others along the way. In my journey, I learned that if some research has shown that bilingualism not only could get us a higher-paid job but also the possibility to improve our mental health, then why not to teach my children to speak Español. Nonetheless, the reasons why Latinx not follow these researches that easily could be due to one important matter: Inclusion.

A Sense of Community and Inclusion Despite our Accents

The Community Psychologists, Geoffrey Nelson and Isaac Prilleltensky (2010) claim that a community helps to “fill human needs for support and connection” (p. 37). However, when a group of individuals encounter discrimination not only based on their appearance but also their accent, this sense of belonging and inclusion could easily fade and involuntarily transform into cultural assimilation or isolation.

Pew Research Center claims that 65% Latinx (ages 18-29) have experienced discrimination or unfair treatment based on their race or ethnicity. As an example, one of the most popular job-search website states that employers tend to make judgments based on their prospective employees’ accents. “Not only may someone with a Hispanic accent be deemed ‘less educated,’ but someone with a British accent may be seen as ‘more intelligent’,” Monster claims. Thank goodness, the times are changing!

Whom from our ancestors would have thought that the Latinx population would be reaching nearly 58 million in the future (2016)? Just as Community Psychology has increased its attention to diversity and inclusion in “theory, practice, and training” (Nelson: 2010, p. 39), Latinx families ought to understand that the benefits of raising their children, with the inclusion of Spanish as their second language, are in more advantage than the contrary. I truly know and I feel guilty of taking this matter in a light way. “They will learn when they grow up…”

I started believing that exclusively speaking English to my children would help me improve my English skills, as well as -perhaps to avoid possible discrimination towards them. I stopped believing in my assumptions when I realized how valuable and rewarding is to embrace the language that best represents my culture, and started focusing on rescuing bilingualism.

Helpful links:

Parents’ Guide to Teach Spanish at Home. SpeakingLatino



Geoffrey Nelson, Isaac Prilleltensky. (2010). Community Pasychology: In Pursuit of Liberation and Well-Being (2nd ed.). New York: Palgrave MacMillian.


#UML #CommPsych

Social Justice and Me

by Jeremy Laporte

At the end of my interview for the position of graduate fellow at the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, the director of the office asked me a question I had been expecting: why is social justice important to you? Knowing that question was coming, I rehearsed answers to it in the days leading up to the interview, but had trouble defining social justice in a way that explained my commitment to it. Instead, I muttered the first words that came to mind, saying “uh” many times as I tried to remember intelligent-sounding phrases about the importance of equality. In my mind, the answer instantly became a blemish on an otherwise successful interview, but it must have met the director’s standards, as I was offered the position. Still, that incident stuck with me. It revealed my lack of knowledge about a term I often use. While I can speak to my investment in many social justice-related topics quite well, I struggle to describe the overall concept beyond a basic formulation like the balanced scale presented in the picture above. I worried that this inability to articulate what a just society looks like would hinder my career goals of contributing to its pursuit.

It was a small comfort, then, to recently discover that my chosen field of community psychology is also unable to produce a clear definition of social justice (Gokani & Walsh, 2017). Apparently, I am not the only one who cannot decide on the specifics of a just society! Some prestigious community psychologists share my simultaneous commitment to social justice and confusion over its meaning. However, reading the article that relayed this information also dispelled my hopes that my education in the field would dismiss my worries around my ability to contribute to social justice in my career.

In that article, Gokani and Walsh (2017) also suggest that community psychologists should not make social justice a goal of their work, but instead pursue this end as private citizens. At first, this notion bothered me, as I had always hoped to use my career to advance this cause. In retrospect, though, those authors’ ideas are much more sensible. My hope to contribute to community psychology as a scientific field necessitates the ability to operationalize the concepts with which I am working and study them in a concrete manner. In the case of social justice, this will be impossible as long as I am unable to adequately define it even in the abstract. This does not prevent me from studying the concepts I believe are social justice related, however. For instance, I can operationalize racial discrimination in the education system by looking at the differential rates of school punishment for students of color as compared to their white counterparts. Research like this, in turn, will influence my opinions and actions as a private citizen, allowing me to more emphatically and persuasively pursue social justice in this realm of my life. Perhaps, with enough research, I will be able to formulate an operationalized definition of this concept. In the meantime, I can be content to investigate related topics in my work while advocating for social justice as a citizen.

#UML #commpsych


Jeremy Laporte is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.



Gokani, R. & Walsh, R. T. (2017). On the Historical and Conceptual Foundations of a Community Psychology of Social Transformation. American Journal of Community Psychology, Pages 1 – 11.

How Do We Ensure That All the Voices are Heard at the Community Circles?

by Hilary Clark

In a few weeks I will be co-facilitating a Community Circle at UML as part of Your Voice Matters (, a coalition of Lowell Public School representatives, students and parents and many local community-based organizations and non-profits who are interested in engaging additional community members to work together in new and different ways to improve Lowell’s schools.

After almost a year of planning and working with coaches from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the grant awarding agency supporting this work, approximately thirty people are trained to facilitate circles around the city in an attempt to create engaging and safe spaces for community conversations about education in Lowell, identify strengths, clarify themes and areas for improvement and to ultimately work collaboratively to set priorities for future work.

This approach is different from others that the city may have seen in the past and is in line with the guiding principles and intervention methods used in community psychology where it is assumed that community members know what they need and should be active and central participants in the process of identifying what is and is not working in the community. Who else, but the members of the community can help others to better understand why students do, or do not succeed in Lowell schools.  The objectives of these circles is to build trust and connect a variety of people, help people respect each other and listen to different ideas and help people find common ground for solutions and action when it comes to education.

Lowell’s rich history as an immigrant community creates a unique challenge in that there are so many different cultures represented within the city.  Julian Rappaport (1977) identified the value of cultural relativity and diversity as a central theme to community psychology, so as not to compare people to a single standard.  Now that registration for the circles has launched the real work begins because while all voices are important the goal is to hear from members of the community who are often times underrepresented and sometimes not represented at all.  It is so important for those that may not have had an opportunity to speak up in the past are included in these conversations.  Following the community psychology belief that people cannot be understood apart from their environment, the only way to know about the experiences of these community members is directly from them.  How do we access all of these different voices?

Community Circles are being held at different times throughout the day, at different locations around the city and will include food.  Interpreters and childcare will be provided as needed. Facebook and social media is being used to spread the word and encourage folks to register for a Community Circle, a flier will hopefully be heading home next week with every Lowell Public School student, 14,416 to be exact, community organizations involved in the coalition are spreading the word to their members and posters advertising the events are going up throughout the city, but what else can be done to reach the people that need a seat at the table and their voices to be heard?  And how do we know if we have reached them all?

Hopefully as this work continues and more community members become involved, the word will spread and more people from different cultural pockets around the city will engage, so that one day all voices are heard.  By engaging these community members, better understanding the environment these folks are living in and the experiences they have had with Lowell schools, the hope is that the community can continue to develop and strengthen resources that will enable all Lowell students to succeed.


#UML #commpsych


Hilary Clark is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.