Enid Rosario-Ramos Wins National Academy of Education Fellowship

Enid Rosario-Ramos Wins National Academy of Education Fellowship

After a rigorous national competition, Enid Rosario-Ramos, a doctoral student in the Learning Sciences program, has won a National Academy of Education Predoctoral Fellowship in Adolescent Literacy. This highly selective fellowship is a new initiative by the National Academy of Education and the Carnegie Foundation of New York to encourage a new generation of scholars in the field of adolescent literacy.

Rosario-Ramos's fellowship project will explore the relationships between adolescents' participation in community building and the development of critical literacy skills. It will also examine how schools and community organizations provide opportunities for adolescents from non-dominant groups to develop these skills.

Today the lives of many youths are affected by problems such as poverty, violence and educational inequality. "I believe that the need for social changes that address the living conditions of these youths can motivate youths' reading and understanding of different texts that discuss the social structures that create these situations," says Rosario-Ramos. "In communities affected by inequality, reading is not merely about understanding decontextualized texts that have little bearing on students' lives, but about wrestling with how the community is represented in texts and how these representations affect their daily lives."

Taking action for social change requires attention to the meaning of texts, according to Rosario-Ramos. "I believe we still need to develop better understandings of how texts embed and represent unequal social relationships and how communities negatively affected by these relationships can become critical of the textual representations of their lives to be able to rewrite their own experiences," she says. Her study will examine how youths' critical literacy practices can be connected to their participation in social change.

During the first stage of her two-year project, Rosario-Ramos will gather and analyze texts available to students. She will also survey and assess students on their critical reading and participation in community building as she identifies relationships between the two. The second stage of her research will include case studies to take a closer look at how students interpret texts in school and community-based organizations. Interviews will focus on students' perspectives on their engagement in reading, participation in community building activities and approaches to reading.

An interest in thinking about inequality led Rosario-Ramos to her current studies at the School of Education and Social Policy. "I decided to study education because of a recognition of how different educational experiences are for students from different backgrounds," she says. However, the inspiration for this particular project came from her experiences with a Puerto Rican community in Chicago where social activism stems from community members evaluating how texts represent their experiences. "In this community, young people are provided with a wide range of opportunities to critically analyze the ways in which social structures affect their lives. They also have multiple opportunities for participating in community activism within their neighborhood," she says.

In the SESP Learning Sciences program, Rosario-Ramos sees professors Eva Lam and Carol Lee as her primary mentors. From the beginning she has worked with Lam on a project that examines immigrant adolescents' language use and learning, as well as their identity development in online contexts. "Working with Professor Lam has helped me develop important research skills that have been instrumental in the way I think and conduct my own research," she says. "I am also extremely grateful for having Professor Carol Lee as one of my mentors as she has also been a great influence in the way I think about literacy and education."

Rosario-Ramos credits Lam and Lee for bringing their students together as a research group to discuss cultural aspects of education, including issues of diversity and social justice. "Being able to present my work to this audience and get valuable feedback from them has been a great opportunity to grow as a scholar. I feel that these great students and professors have become a great source of support for me in this process," she says.

A 2003 graduate of the University of Puerto Rico, Rosario-Ramos received her MA in learning sciences from Northwestern University in 2005. Her research interests are in immigrants' education, cultural aspects of learning and education, and learning and development in online contexts.

Rosario-Ramos intends to receive her PhD in the fall of 2009. While she is not sure what her next step will be, she is very sure that she will use her academic and professional skills to help communities with research that aims to improve their life circumstances.
By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 8/14/09