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School of Education Faculty Forge Connections with Haitian Community

In early March, three faculty members from the School of Education had the opportunity to travel to Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, to experience the culture, visit the schools and propose ideas for supporting the community.

The trip was planned in conjunction with Brace for IMPACT 46, an organization founded by former MLB pitcher Kyle McClellan and his wife, Bridget, that seeks to impact the lives of children and families in Haiti and north St. Louis by funding programs to build schools and hospitals, provide healthy meals, and create local jobs. Brace for IMPACT 46 forms partnerships with local organizations to gain an understanding of the needs of the communities they serve. The organization left a lasting impact in Cap-Haïtien by building a children’s home, employing numerous Haitian workers, and providing education, medical care, clean water, and healthy meals, regardless of a family’s finances.

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Merlene Gilb, Jaime Welborn, Maureen Wikete Lee, and Haitian school children. 

Jaime Welborn, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor in Educational Leadership at Saint Louis University, has a personal connection with the McClellan family, which led to conversations about the education system in Haiti and specifically about the school of IDADEE, a children’s home with primary and secondary schools that provide an education to over 290 local children. After talking with Gary Ritter, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Education, about the possibility of supporting the IDADEE school in some way, plans were made for Welborn to lead a team from the School of Education down to Haiti. Welborn was accompanied by Merlene Gilb, Ed.D., Assistant Professor in Educational Studies, and Maureen Wikete Lee, Ph.D., Associate Dean and Assistant Professor in the School of Education, as well as Kyle McClellan, Founder of Brace for Impact 46, and Estevenson Coleman, Program Director, on a trip meant to introduce the SLU team to the area and culture of Cap-Haïtien and the IDADEE community. A goal of the SLU team was to build a foundation for supporting the school in the future.

Early in the visit, the faculty listened to the leaders’ (teacher, principal, president) perspectives and asked for suggestions regarding opportunities and about the possibility for developing an ongoing partnership.  Their focus was to follow the lead of the community members and to work with and for them. “We certainly took away more than we gave.  It was a humbling, unforgettable experience,” said Gilb.

During the trip, the faculty conducted a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis and met with the IDADEE president, Mr. Remy Fils-Aime, to propose three areas to focus on moving forward—professional development for purposeful practice, building parents as partners, and investing in a library/learning center. The SLU team cited many similarities between the priorities of IDADEE school and the schools in and around our SLU community, including incorporating classroom engagement opportunities and structures, encouraging authentic hands on learning experiences, and increasing connections between families and the school. They found that teachers are eager to share resources and engage in new learning as a community of professionals across the country.  Haitian teachers are advocates and eager to engage and empower children.

The children of Haiti attending schools are the light of Haiti and the hope for the future."

Jaime Welborn, Ph.D.

With these connections in mind, the faculty members hope to work with other SLU faculty, staff, and students in the future to build on these proposals and to further support the educational system, teachers, students, and stakeholders of the IDADEE community.